DENVER -- Rockies slugger Todd Helton was in the three-hole in the lineup Sunday for the first time this season. Helton has hit third for the vast majority of his big league at-bats, but at this stage in his career, the 38-year-old veteran has spent most of his time in the five-spot.
"He has incredible history with [Giants starter Tim Lincecum]," manager Jim Tracy said, referring to Helton's .351 career average (13-for-37 with eight walks) against the Giants right-hander. "He makes the man who's pitching against us throw the ball over the plate. If Timmy doesn't throw the ball over the plate, Todd's not going to swing at it. If he throws the stuff in the dirt, he's not going to take the bait."
Carlos Gonzalez typically hits third for the Rockies in an ideal lineup, with Troy Tulowitzki batting cleanup. Tulowitzki has been on the disabled list since May 31 with a strained left groin, and Michael Cuddyer got the bulk of time batting fourth until he went on the DL on Friday with a right oblique strain.
"In actuality we'd like Carlos Gonzalez to be hitting third," Tracy said. "But of the two guys that have taken up the bulk of hitting fourth on this club, I have both of them on the disabled list. So I have to be creative every day in putting a lineup together that is predominantly centered around what we can do to put some people on base so at least Carlos Gonzalez is taking some at-bats with people on. That's it. There's no other rocket-science theory involved. I really don't have a whole hell of a lot of options."
Among the creative lineup options Tracy has used has been putting leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler in the three-hole recently, a tip of the cap to the center fielder's consistent hitting and improved power, hitting .294 with a career-high 12 home runs this season.
"He's been taking competitive at-bats all year," Tracy said. "I personally feel that Dexter Fowler's self-confidence level has moved a few notches in his own mind. I think Dexter Fowler knows that he has arrived as a Major League player."