Helton in a weird studio picture. Image: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Checking In With Todd Helton

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An awkward situation looms for the Colorado Rockies as they sort out their various pieces for the 2013 season.

Todd Helton will be a part time player. That much we know. Here is what we do not know: will that part time status truly be a concession to his age and his balky back and hip, or will it be based on play on the field? And how subtle can the distinction between those two reasons truly be?

When I envision the best Rockies lineup this season, the kind with the offensive prowess to intimidate opponents, I rarely include Helton. That’s not an easy thing to deal with. But as they say, Father Time is undefeated.

Here is the worst part: when you adore Helton the way that so many Rockies fans do, the last thing you want to see is that player struggling mightily and limping to the end of his career. You do not want him to lose his shine so much, and that was true before Helton’s off-season DUI. You hate to hear people say: “It looks like he should have hung them up a while ago.” You hate that they might be right.

So far Helton is 3-for-12 in Cactus League play. That does include a home run. Additionally, he is still without question the best defensive option at first base. If his name were not Todd Helton, would that be enough to name him the opening day starter at first base?

See. I told you it’s awkward. And Walt Weiss played with the guy.

In the Denver Post yesterday, Troy Renck argued that Eric Young Jr. must play more this season. He notes that EY2’s playing time would likely come at Helton’s expense. Eric Young Jr.’s dad Eric Young also played with Helton.

Hence comes the moment when things get the most awkward. You would never cheer for Helton to get hurt again. Ever. In fact, good health for Helton is on my short wish list for the upcoming season. I desperately want to see him go out with some success. Having said all of that, it makes things undeniably easier for Weiss to get everybody playing time if Helton misses time.

We should be celebrating Todd Helton’s final season. Instead I am afraid that we will spend most of it cringing at an increasingly awkward situation.

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