Tracy says Helton playing at All-Star level

Tracy says Helton playing at All-Star level

Tracy says Helton playing at All-Star level
DENVER -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy thinks Todd Helton's performance through the first 62 games of the season warrants a trip to Arizona next month.

"He's playing himself, in my opinion, into strong consideration to be a 2011 All-Star," Tracy said. "It's really easy for me to suggest that."

The numbers make it a fair suggestion, too.

Helton entered Friday's action ranking in the top 10 in the National League with a .318 average (sixth), a .394 on-base percentage (eighth) and a .534 slugging percentage (seventh).

Helton had reached base safely in nine of his last 10 plate appearances heading into Friday's game against the Dodgers, including a 4-for-4 performance in the Rockies' win, 5-3, over the Padres on Wednesday. His eight home runs matched his season total from 2010, when he hit a career-low .256, while battling through back and leg injuries.

"He's a completely different player from last year," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It just goes to show, from year to year, sometimes you find it and sometimes you don't. He's been special to watch, and he's doing this year what he's been doing his whole career."

Helton's consistently high rate of production this season has caused a dilemma for Tracy, who said Friday that Helton has played more than expected this season.

Helton played in 118 games last season while nursing the injuries, but he has sat out just eight of the Rockies' 62 games this season.

"We are cautious about it," said Tracy, who added that he believes Helton should be a front-runner for the Comeback Player of the Year Award. "We are very protective of the fact that when we feel, and/or he feels, like he needs to step off to the side and just take a day to regroup physically, we're doing so."