Todd Helton ready to play what will likely be his final season

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Todd Helton is under contract for $5 million in 2013, but there was some uncertainty whether he’d come back following hip and knee surgeries. However, the 39-year-old first baseman told Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post today that he’s ready to return for what will likely be his final season in the majors.

“I am back baby,” Helton said with a laugh. “When you are 39 years old, coming off hip surgery, those things don’t really go good together when you are talking about a baseball player. There was some uncertainty and doubt after last season. But as I got into it, it only fueled my appetite to keep playing and keep getting better.”

Helton underwent season-ending surgery last August to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and then had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in November. But he was motivated to return following a meeting with new manager Walt Weiss last month and recently took batting practice with no issues. While he is projected to be the starting first baseman in 2013, the Rockies will keep an open mind with his health, which means Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin and Jordan Pacheco will all be options to fill in when he needs rest.

Helton batted just .238/.343/.400 with seven home runs, 37 RBI and a .743 OPS in 69 games last season. However, he still owns a fantastic .320/.419/.545 lifetime batting line and a .964 career OPS over 16 major league seasons, all with the Rockies. He should make for an interesting Hall of Fame case, but it might be harder for him to get support that it has been for former teammate Larry Walker, who at least spent six years in Montreal and two in St. Louis.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.