Helton searching for consistency with bat

Helton searching for consistency with bat

Helton searching for consistency with bat
DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton entered Friday night's game against the Mariners hitting .236 -- the lowest average of his career at this date -- and is simply trying to find the swing that was present early but is now lost.

"It's basically like a man driving and he gets lost," Helton said. "What's the first thing he wants to do? Speed up and go faster instead of slow down, stop and ask directions."

Before this year, the lowest Helton's average as of May 18 was .262 in 1999, his second full season in the Majors. Often it's in the .300s.

Helton said he simply wants to hit the ball where it's pitched -- a philosophy that has built a career that will be worthy of Hall of Fame discussion when it's done. He believes it can change quickly once he corrects the urge to rush his swing.

"I want to have the ability and feeling that when you're back in launch position, wherever the ball is pitched you can hit it and hit it hard," Helton said. "I felt like that early, that I was in that position. Of late I've been jumpy. I've been not seeing the ball because I'm jumping.

"It's a whole snowball effect. Then your bat feels like it's slow. What do you want to do then? You want to try harder, which is the opposite of what you should be doing."

Any slump by Helton brings immediate questions about the health of his back, which has been an on-again, off-again problem in recent years. In an attempt to keep him as healthy as possible, manager Jim Tracy has been giving him frequent days off, like for day games after night games or after some road trips. Helton isn't saying whether the back is a problem.

"I could give you all kinds of good excuses, but I need to go out, improve and get better," Helton said. "Basically I need to be more consistent, having a consistent approach."

Tracy said it might not take much to put Helton in the right direction.

"He's one good swing away from saying, 'Oh my gosh, how hot is he?'" Tracy said. "He may have taken it yesterday on that 3-0 pitch [for a ninth-inning single].

"He will find it. He takes one swing and there it is. Todd Helton -- that's why he is who he is. What's going on lately is he's hit the bottom of the ball a little bit more than he likes to hit the bottom of the ball."

Helton had some game-winning swings early but finished April hitting .254 and in May is hitting .205 without a homer.

"It feels good in the cage, but when you get in the box .230 [on the scoreboard] stares at you, and it takes a little bit away," Helton said. "We may be having this conversation and I'm hitting .300 in a week. Or I could be hitting .200."