HOUSTON -- It doesn't feel like it to Todd Helton, but Friday night will be his 15th straight Opening Day start at first base.That's a longer streak than Lou Gehrig (1926-39). It's also one behind former Astros great Jeff Bagwell (1991-2006). Helton's is the longest active Opening Day streak among Major League players. Chipper Jones had started in 16 straight openers for the Braves, but that run ended Thursday. "Fifteen years is a long time," Helton said Thursday before working out with his club at Minute Maid Park. "I never thought I'd play that long. Going through it, being in the moment, you don't really think about it that much. It seems like it's where you're supposed to be and what you're supposed to be doing." Helton, who hit .302 in 124 games and demonstrated he has production in his bat as long as his back is healthy, has experienced some high Opening Day moments, but he had an easy time coming up with his favorite. "It was my first one, in Arizona, opening up that ballpark," Helton said. "That's kind of hard to beat -- the first game in a ballpark and your first Opening Day."
Young heeds own advice, refuses to be ignored
HOUSTON -- Rockies outfielder Eric Young Jr. has used social media to inspire others for a couple of years now. This spring, he made sure to live by his own advice.An online conversation with a fan back in November sparked Young to coin a slogan -- #refuse2beignored. Seizing a business opportunity, Young has sold quite a few T-shirts with the slogan. More importantly, Young, 26, used an eye-catching spring to make an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career. Baseball gave Young name recognition, and fans were excited to talk with him. But during one conversation, Young figured his fans were just as worthy of admiration, even if their accomplishments weren't so public. "I felt they were putting me on a pedestal because I play baseball," Young said. "I said, 'I play baseball because it's something that I do well. It doesn't mean I'm better than anybody else. That's just what I do well.'
W: Guthrie (1-0) L: Rodriguez (0-1)
SV: Betancourt (1)
"Whatever talent or gift God blessed you with, try to take advantage of it, whatever that may be -- playing an instrument, being a doctor or being a lawyer."At the time of the conversation, it wasn't clear if Young had the Rockies' attention. Young bounced between the Rockies and Triple-A Colorado Springs last season and hit .247 with a .342 on-base percentage, and led the club with 27 stolen bases, in 77 games. An infielder much of his career, he struggled in the outfield initially but had improved by season's end. Still, the Rockies looked to upgrade all over the field and, after years of looking at their farm system first to plug holes, they seemed willing to bring in players from the outside. But before Spring Training began, manager Jim Tracy outlined for Young exactly what he needed to do to grab a job. All along, the Rockies thought Young's speed was a game-winning skill. But when playing outside of the expanded September roster, a player needs to be more than a baserunning threat. Tracy told Young to stick with an offensive approach built on making contact and avoiding fly balls, and prove he could play defense. In 21 games, Young hit .278 with a .322 on-base percentage, succeeded on six of seven stolen-base attempts, and played well enough in all three outfield positions. "There is no denying the spring that he's had," Tracy said. "He's as good as I've seen him. With the exception of exhibition game No. 1, when the ball was in the air, that's the last time I saw the ball in the air. Eric Young Jr. is performing offensively, and he's done a much better job in the outfield." Young entered camp with no Minor League options, meaning the Rockies would have to place him on waivers to send him to the Minors, and some other club would have had the chance to grab him and see if it couldn't use his speed. But Young made sure there was no reason for the Rockies -- the team his father, current D-backs first base coach Eric Young, represented in the 1996 All-Star Game -- to risk losing him. "There's a lot of weight off my shoulders," Young said. "There were a lot of question marks coming into the camp this year. I just knew if given the opportunity, if given an opportunity to say a lot in the spring, I was going to refuse to be ignored."
Roenicke glad he earned roster spot for opener
HOUSTON -- Right-handed reliever Josh Roenicke made sure the Rockies put him on the Opening Day roster because he earned it, not just because it was easy to do.Roenicke, 29, entered Spring Training 1-0 with a 5.17 ERA in 64 Major League games since 2008, but he had never been on a season-opening roster. Roenicke had the advantage of being out of Minor League options, meaning the club would risk him being claimed off waivers by another team if the Rockies wanted to send him to the Minors. This spring, Roenicke went 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 11 appearances. "In the past I was the guy that had options and I've battled with guys who were out of options," Roenicke said. "It's an easy choice. It was kind of entrenched that I was going to Triple-A, and they were going to take a chance on this guy because they knew they were going to lose him. I didn't want that to be the case. "I wanted to come in here and pitch my way onto the team and have it not be because of the whole option/business side of it. When I found out I made the team, it was exciting."
Moyer eyes record-setting win with 'kids'
HOUSTON -- Jamie Moyer felt more like the Rockies' chaperone than one of their starting pitchers."When I got on the plane last night and went to the bathroom, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I feel like we're on a field trip and I'm watching over the kids,'" Moyer said. "It was different. It's all in a respectful way." When Moyer makes his first start on Saturday against the Astros, he'll be vying to become the oldest Major League pitcher ever to earn a win. On Sept. 13, 1932, the Dodgers' Jack Quinn pitched five shutout relief innings to beat the Cardinals, 6-5, in 10 innings, at 49 years, 74 days. Moyer will be 49 and 141 days Saturday. Moyer said his parents, his wife and six of their seven children will be in attendance Saturday. The one not in attendance, Dillon Moyer, 20, is playing baseball at UC Irvine. Incidentally, UC Irvine won its opener this season at Minute Maid Park, 5-3, over Alabama State in the Urban Invitational Tournament. Dillon Moyer started at second base in that game.
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.