Helton could use All-Star vote boost

Helton could use All-Star vote boost

DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton's bushy goatee might be the only way to tell the difference between his 2009 highlights and footage from the start of this decade, when Helton was one of baseball's most dominant hitters.

Those days seemed gone in 2008, when years of back issues culminated in Helton undergoing surgery at the end of last season to alleviate the pressure that a bulging disk was placing on a nerve. The Rockies crossed their fingers that rehab would have him in the lineup for the start of this season.

But Helton has turned back the clock.

In 2007, when the Rockies went to the World Series, Helton was their inspirational leader and made his share of big plays. But this year's performance is more reminiscent of early years, when Helton was clearly the team's best player. Helton enters this week leading the Rockies in hitting, and playing defense reminiscent of the work that earned him three Gold Glove Awards.

What could complete Helton's return to prominence is a trip back to the All-Star Game, at St. Louis' Busch Stadium on July 14. Helton has been to the Midsummer Classic five times, from 2000-2004.

Also bucking for All-Star consideration is Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe, who has offered consistent run production in a year in which the Rockies haven't had many dependable offensive performers. Hawpe has never appeared in an All-Star Game.

According to the early vote count, no Rockies player ranks in the top five at any position. Rockies fans have a chance to change that.

Fans can cast their votes for starters up to 25 times with the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Online Ballot at MLB.com and all 30 club sites until July 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Starting rosters will be announced during the 2009 All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet on TBS on July 5. Baseball fans around the world will then be able to select the final player on each team via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint Final Vote at MLB.com.

And the voting doesn't end there. Fans will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet at the Midsummer Classic via the 2009 All-Star Game Sprint MVP Vote at MLB.com.

The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX and around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio play-by-play, while MLB.com will offer extensive online coverage.

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