Sunday, August 20, 2006

Crohn's Disease Continues to Impact Todd Helton

Rockies 1B Todd Helton has been restored to his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order, though his bat still appears unusually slow. Only three weeks ago Helton, his average dipping to .270 with just 11 homers, told manager Clint Hurdle he should be dropped to ninth in the batting order because he was swinging so poorly. Helton was tried briefly at No. 2, and finally settled in the No. 5 spot. But subsequently Helton -- traditionally a better second-half player -- has hit .347 with a .440 OBP and nearly .600 slugging, thus being restored to the No. 3 spot where he has batted since he became a Rockies regular in 1997. Though Helton has hit only one more homer since Aug. 3, bringing his season total to an even dozen, he is hitting with better authority to the gaps and right field line. Helton's homer drought may be attributable to some degree to the Rockies use of a cedar-lined humidor, an airtight storage compartment that causes game balls to play heavier and more compressed, preventing excessive deep flies in the Mile High City. Helton, who was hospitalized with fever and severe intestinal pain in May, has likely felt, weak, uncomfortable and out of sorts due to lingering effects of his malady, acute terminal ileitus, a type of Crohn's manifestation specific to the end of the lower intestine. As a consequence, Helton remains committed to diet restrictions and an anti-inflamatory drug regimen that may be impacting his performance. Though he has lost more the 30 pounds of muscle as a direct result of Crohn's, and his bat has been noticeably slower, Helton may finally be feeling a little more like his old self lately. Although Crohn's is rarely fatal, once contracted it lasts for life, occasionally affecting its victim's strength for weeks, months, a year or even longer.