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09/13/08 7:21 PM ET

Rockies play it careful with Helton

Hurdle wants to ease first baseman back into regular starts

DENVER -- Now that Todd Helton is officially back, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said the team is in no rush to decide how much action the first baseman will see in the final 14 games of the season.

"We want to be respectful of how he's feeling," Hurdle said. "We'll probably look initially for more pinch-hit at-bats and eventually look for a start. I don't have a timetable."

Helton entered Friday's game as a pinch-hitter for Jeff Francis in the sixth inning. It was his first game action since being placed on the disabled list July 3 with a strained lower back.

The rust of missing 62 games was clearly evident when Helton struck out swinging on an inside fastball.

"It's tough," he said after the game. "You always want to be out there helping your team. I'm looking forward to getting back to where I should be."

Helton's chronic back ailments have given him continued problems during the past few years. Hurdle said reducing Helton's playing time next season may prevent his back from wearing down.

"We might have to adjust that as we go forward into next season to some degree," Hurdle said. "But it's encouraging for the position he's in. We didn't know if he'd be in this position this season."

Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.