The Associated Press reports the Colorado Rockies have placed first baseman Todd Helton (back) on the 15-day disabled list with lower back inflammation.
The slumping first baseman did not play Thursday, July 3, after he aggravated his back Wednesday, July 2, taking a big cut and whiffing on a pitch. The soreness dates back to a June 13-15 series against the Chicago White Sox, but he did not want to take time off due to a lack of able bodies.
"It's been bad for a while," Helton said. "I've been feeling pain going down into my leg for a while and my butt. Then my back, the last few days, really locked up. I felt like I could deal with one. One's affecting the other."
Helton is expected to receive a cortisone injection Tuesday, July 8, but is not setting a timeframe for his return. He is not going to push his return and will come back when he "can field a ground ball and swing a bat and hit it farther than second base."
Like much of the rest of the Rockies squad, Helton has been struggling for most of the season. He is hitting just .266 with only seven home runs, 29 RBIs and 39 runs in 297 at-bats. His numbers declined even further in June, as he hit just .233 with only one home run and eight RBIs.
His decline is worrisome for fantasy owners. Helton had been one of the most reliable first baseman in the league over his career with a .300-plus average and 15-plus home runs in 10 straight seasons. He has also been pretty durable, notching at least 500 at-bats in each season since 1998. It is Helton's third trip to the DL and first since 2006. In the past few seasons, though, he has become more of a corner infielder than a starting first baseman, in fantasy terms, because of his drop-off in power.
Back pain is nothing new for Helton, who revealed early in 2006 that he had suffered a back injury in spring training of 2005. He acknowledged then that the injury affected him all season. Helton really hasn't been the same player since, although his contributions have been solid.
In a corresponding move, the Rockies called up slugging first baseman Joe Koshansky from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Koshansky has been raking with the Sky Sox this year, hitting .281 with 18 home runs, 78 RBIs and 51 runs. Koshansky was expected to be in uniform Friday, July 4.
The man who has replaced Helton recently - infielder Jeff Baker - also received the start at first base Friday, July 4. Baker started slowly this year with a .227-0-10 line through May 31. However, he erupted in June with a .338 average, five home runs and 14 RBIs.
There has been no mention of how the playing time will be structured. For fantasy purposes, Helton could be stashed in deep mixed leagues if you have the room. His previous numbers and a return to good health are two reasons to believe Helton might turn things around once his back is healthy. Those in shallow mixed leagues can cut bait if they need the spot.
Baker is worth a look in deeper mixed formats; he was already in a second-base platoon and should have eligibility there in most fantasy leagues. It seems likely that the right-handed bat will start at first, at least initially. The longer Helton is out, though, the longer Colorado gets a chance to look at other options.
Koshansky is one to keep an eye on, too. His power potential (38 home runs at two stops in 2005; 31 at Double-A Tulsa in 2006; 21 last year for Triple-A Colorado Springs) makes him a possible pickup. He's hitting .281 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox this year. As well, the Rockies, who have a 35-51 record and are in fourth place in the National League West, could use a boost. Only consider Koshansky, 26, in NL-only formats right now, but keep him on your watch list in mixed leagues. His left-handed bat could land him in a platoon situation, but if he impresses, he could earn more time.
About Bryce McRae
Bryce McRae is a Managing Editor with KFFL and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1999. He joined KFFL as a volunteer writer in March 2005 before becoming a Hot off the Wire Analyst in March 2006. He began working in his current capacity in September 2008. His work has appeared on fantasy sports sites such as Yahoo! and CBS Sportsline as well as in print. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2008 with a B.A. in History and U.S. Studies.
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