Rockies making Todd Helton a part-time player for stretch run

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Todd Helton has hit well since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago, going 9-for-30 (.300) with two homers, two doubles, and a .927 OPS, but manager Jim Tracy said yesterday that the 36-year-old first baseman will not be used as an everyday player down the stretch.

We were doing a lot of searching early on, but he obviously got to a point where his legs fatigued. So if we’re mindful of what it was that sent him to the DL and we bring him back and push him, we’re completely defeating the purpose.

So far Tracy has given Helton back-to-back starts followed by one game off, with Jason Giambi or Melvin Mora replacing him at first base depending on whether the opposing pitcher is right-handed or left-handed.
That seems like a solid plan and so far at least has kept Helton productive after he struggled mightily before landing on the DL, but it can’t be very encouraging in the bigger picture given that the Rockies still owe him about $30 million.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.