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Should Helton retire, it could be on high note

Should Helton retire, it could be on high note

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Should Helton retire, it could be on high note

DENVER -- The Rockies' dream of a strong second half and a playoff berth could provide a happy-ever-after ending for veteran first baseman Todd Helton's career.

Helton has not announced whether he will retire at the end of the season, but it is the final year of his contract, his surgically repaired back and right hip are balky and he has started just 53 of the club's 96 games this season. He entered Friday night's game against the Cubs to open the post-break schedule hitting .258 -- nowhere near his standout career standards -- with six home runs and 30 RBIs.

If this is it for Helton, it could be exciting. The Rockies entered Friday 4 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading D-backs, but it was just before the break that the Rockies had a healthy lineup for the first time in a month.

"It's good to be on a team that could be playing meaningful games in September," Helton said. "You'd love to end the season winning [the World Series] on the last day. That's how you'd write the script, but we don't get to write it exactly the way we want."

Helton hopes the All-Star break gave him enough rest to make a big push.

"I feel pretty rested, but I could have used another three or four days," Helton said with a laugh.

Helton has been sharing first base with Jordan Pacheco and, occasionally, Michael Cuddyer, after spending his career as an everyday player. But the time off is not necessarily rest time.

"My swing has been so bad this year that I've had plenty to work on," he said.

Helton's defense has held up, so his value has held even if his hitting has dipped.

"It's still something I could still say is a positive to my game, but I didn't sign up just to go out and play good defense," Helton said. "Obviously, I wish I'd done better up to this point, but I can only try to improve from where I'm at right now."

Rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado believes Helton's glove cannot be underrated.

"If you get the ball close, he's going to make the play -- he's the best scooping first baseman in the game," Arenado said. "He's saved me tons this year. I couldn't be happier with the way he takes care of me. It's pretty awesome having him on the team.

"I've watched him work hard every day. With him, nothing comes easy. You'd think, being older, he could take it easy, but he watches film and does the little things to get better. If he's still doing that, that means I have a long way to go."

Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who took over for Helton as the face of the franchise in recent years, said Helton had not told him he was done at the end of the year but that he would not mind if Helton kept playing.

"I hope he comes back, because I enjoy playing with him so much," Tulowitzki said. "He does a little bit of everything. He's a great player on the field, and everywhere else he helps us professionally. Take a look before the game. He knows how to prepare.

"He can be hard on himself. Everybody sees how upset he can get with himself. But at the end of the day, when he walks out of the locker room, he does a good job putting on his dad face and just being a good guy."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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