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Helton feeling good after rehab stint

Helton feeling good after rehab stint

DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said his back and legs felt good after a three-day injury rehab assignment at Rookie-level Casper, but he hasn't heard from the club whether he'll be activated Tuesday.

Helton, who has been on the disabled list since July 7 with a lower-back strain and delayed his rehab assignment to strengthen his legs, went 5-for-10 with a double and five RBIs in the three games.

He returned to Denver on Monday and met with doctors, but said he had yet to consult with the club about whether he will return for Tuesday's start of a key two-game series with the Giants at Coors Field.

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"I'm feeling fine," Helton said. "My legs and back felt pretty good. But I haven't talked to anybody [with the club]."

Helton said the decision would come after a discussion with the team.

Before the injury, Helton hit .246 with two home runs and 16 RBIs, and lacked not only home run power but the ability to hit line drives. Helton underwent back surgery in 2008, but rebounded last year to hit .325 -- fourth in the National League in batting.

Lately, the club has been using usual right fielder Brad Hawpe at first base. Veteran Jason Giambi has seen considerable time at first in Helton's absence, but manager Jim Tracy has limited his use of Giambi, hoping to save the veteran's legs for important pinch-hit duty down the stretch.

In Helton's last two healthy and productive seasons, 2007 and last season, he was a force in helping the team make the playoffs. Currently, the Rockies are third in the NL West, trailing the first-place Padres by eight games and the second-place Giants in the NL Wild Card race by 5 1/2 games.

Helton, who turns 37 on Aug. 20, has appeared in five All-Star Games, won four Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger awards, and three Rawlings Gold Gloves award. He also has been to a World Series.

Not often does such a player appear on the same field as players at the lowest rung of the Minors. His time in Casper drew overflow crowds to Mike Lansing Field, which, incidentally, is named after one of Helton's former Rockies teammates.

It was no doubt a thrill for his teammates, three of them who were born in 1991. Helton found it refreshing as well.

"Oh, it's a great group of guys, and they're willing to do anything it takes to get to the big leagues," Helton said. "They're really young. I'm almost 20 years older than some of them."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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