Helton, ToddWhen you think of Colorado Rockies players who might possibly hold the team back, Todd Helton isn’t one of them. The star first baseman is the highest-paid player on the team and has been the face of the franchise for years. But don’t tell him that.

The 36-year-old slugger tells CBS4 that despite putting up 15 home runs and 86 runs batted in, there were times last year when he was worn out physically and emotionally. Especially down the stretch and into the playoffs, Helton (pictured) says he could have helped the team win and “just wasn’t up to it.”

He’s encouraged by the recent flurry of signings, though, especially the one that will give him a break at first base, Jason Giambi. While Giambi is no spring chicken himself, at least between the two veterans we’ll have a reliable option at first and a potentially potent bat in the lineup at all times.

Still, other questions remain. Can pitcher Jeff Francis return from a shoulder injury that kept him benched last year? Fox Sports writes that the Rockies need the left-hander to regain the form that helped him tie a franchise record with 17 wins in 2007, and that the team’s other pitchers need to keep up last year’s form, as well.

Key to that will be another lefty, Jorge De La Rosa, as well as Troy Tulowitzki. The 25-year-old star shortstop tells The Denver Post his personal life is finally on track after marrying his high school sweetheart last November and committing himself more fully to his faith. He’s also changed the way he prepares for the season, hiring a trainer in his native Sunnyvale, California, who has helped him refine his speed and strength. Most importantly, Tulo wants to strike a balance on and off the field.

“It’s my time to put my stamp on the community as a guy that kids can look up to,” he says, “not just as a player, but as a person.”