That adds up to plenty of reasons for Helton to return for the final year on his contract, an opportunity he has been led to believe will be there."Going into [the surgery, there] was always a good chance [of a comeback]," said Helton. "All in all, I have been really pleased the pain is gone. I felt like I should have been walking a week after the surgery even though you take it easy. But you hear some horror stories about the hip surgeries, and I was very fortunate and blessed that mine went really well.'' It has gone so well that Helton is optimistic about what lays ahead. "I'm not getting in baseball shape yet, but I'm working out, doing the things that go with the rehab process, getting both hips strengthened, so when I do start the offseason workout, there will be no issues.'' Helton does remain cautious about where his rehab will lead. Helton is adamant that if he does play in 2013, he will accept a limited role, but it won't be similar to the one Jason Giambi has filled the past three years with the Rockies, where he pinch-hits with rare appearances in the lineup. "I wouldn't be away from my family to pinch-hit,'' said Helton, who turned 39 in August. "I mean, obviously I am pushing 40, and you know I can't be out there every day. That is impossible. There are days I wake up and I am wondering, like a lot of people, how I am going to tie my shoe that day.
"From that point, I know there are going to be days when I am not going to out there and perform, but the days that I do feel good and feel like I can go out there and hit there all over the ballpark, I want to be out there.''And it is all about Helton wanting to walk away on his own terms. It's not about money. Helton restructured his contract two years ago to help the Rockies have budget space for multiyear deals for Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, and his guarantee is $5 million in 2013. Helton has made more than $150 million during his career, and he has been careful with his money over the years. And it's not about a good-bye tour, along the lines of Chipper Jones. "I respect Chipper and what he did, but that's not me," Helton said. Never has been. For Helton, it's about playing the game, competing and winning. It's about him being a part of the winning formula, even if he assumes a secondary role in his final days as a player.
That's why he had hope for 2012 at the start of the season, only to be slapped back to reality by mid-July.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.