Monday, February 05, 2007

Confirmation Awaited on Todd Helton's Recovery

Officials at the Thunder Baseball School in Knoxville, Tenn., have denied certain MLB rumors attributed to them that Tennessee-Ex Todd Helton showed up there to practice looking like the Todd Helton of old.

Though Helton, 33, has been a frequent visitor at the school during his annual trips to his parents house over the holidays, school officials said Helton failed to show up this year. Rumors generated by those who evidently thought they saw Helton had the former Volunteer quarterback looking tanned and fit, and having recovered most or all of the more than 30 pounds he lost last year after his intense bout with an intestinal disorder.

With such information proving spurious, fans are left wondering whether the Rockies all-time team favorite has recovered or continues to struggle with health issues. But a close examination of Helton's performance in the waning weeks of the season last year may provide the answer.

Sure, much has been made of Helton's homer drought, his total falling to a career low 15 last year. But a truer indicator of Helton's condition might be manager Clint Hurdle's decison to restore Helton to his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order at the end of August. Though Helton had asked to be dropped to the No. 9 spot after struggling earlier -- and in fact was tried for awhile at No. 2 and No. 5 -- he regained the No. 3 spot after he hit .347 with a .440 OBP for an extended period at the time of Hurdle's decision.

Though the homers were gone, Helton showed tremendous gap power and no loss of strikezone judgement as his slugging percentage reached nearly .600 for that period. He also went on to hit three more homers, or something like one per week, as the season closed.