Todd Helton's comeback season is over a week early.
Back stiffness has idled Helton most of this month, and with the Rockies spiraling downward as the season ends, manager Jim Tracy sees no point in playing his veteran first baseman and running the risk of injury.
Helton last played on Sept. 13. He missed his ninth straight game Thursday when the Rockies lost 9-6 to the Astros at Houston, and he has played just two of the past 17 games. Thursday's loss was the Rockies' season-high eighth in a row.
After Helton didn't play in the final homestand that ended Wednesday, Tracy's announcement that he wouldn't play the balance of the season wasn't all that surprising.
Helton, who had back surgery at the end of the 2008 season and was plagued by back and leg soreness last year, underwent an MRI on Monday that revealed nothing structurally wrong with his back. He said it has felt better but not good enough to play.
He turned 38 last month and played 125 games this season, hitting .302 with 27 doubles, 14 homers and 69 RBI. He had a .385 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging percentage.
Before the loss Thursday to the Astros, Tracy addressed Helton's situation.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with his back, yet we're not going to send Todd Helton out there with seven games left and run the risk of doing something that quite possibly could run into 2012," Tracy said. "That would be a ridiculous move on our part to do something like that.
"You look at the season that he's had, and you couple that with the fact that when he had to have a day off here and there -- and he's been absolutely terrific in the understanding of that from the health side of things -- Jason Giambi gets involved. You add all that up. You're certainly not going to squawk at all about the offensive production that you've gotten from that position."
Giambi is hitting .260 with 13 homers and 32 RBI in 64 games.
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