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.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.