DENVER -- Behind the beard and a stern look of concentration, Rockies iconic first baseman Todd Helton was a guy fans had a hard time getting a read on, which could make him hard to get to know. At his formal press conference at a Coors Field suite on Monday to announce his pending retirement, Helton displayed raw, genuine emotion -- and a dry sense of humor.
And there you have him. In saying goodbye, he was exactly as you thought he was through his 17-year career, which will come to an end with the final game of this season. He's the guy who played through pain and played covered in pine tar and infield dust, played like a champion in good and bad years for the franchise, and showed sharp wit in interviews and quirky commercials.
Flanked by his wife, Christy, and daughters Tierney Faith, who turns 11 later this month, and Gentry Grace, 4, Helton spoke about his career and thanked those visible and behind the scenes, and thanked fans for the support.
"What will I miss the most?" Helton said. "I'll miss the competition. I'll miss the anticipation of walking out of the tunnel and seeing the fans, and getting ready to play the game. That's going to be the toughest part to me.
"You hear all the time, 'Why didn't you smile more out there on the field? Why didn't you show more emotion?' Because I was out there trying my hardest. To me, when you're out there trying your hardest, it's hard to smile all the time. But let me tell you, I was enjoying myself. I was enjoying every minute that I spent out there."
Helton choked up briefly.
"I'm going to miss walking out of the tunnel at night, walking past Charlotte [Johnson, who is in charge of the gate through which the players leave], saying goodnight, trying to figure out how I'm going to get a hit the next day or how we're going to win a game the next day," he said. "To me, that's going to be the hardest.
"The fans of Colorado, I'd like to thank them. I'd like to think that I've been the model of consistency, but ya'll have been the model of consistency for me. I don't know how those girls stand out there and hold that sign every time I come up."
No discussion of Helton's career is complete without his placing on various all-time lists, and when a guy's career qualifies for lofty all-time comparisons, the Hall of Fame becomes the next subject. The era in which he played, Coors Field, his battling injuries for years will be weighed against the many categories in which he is right with honored players.
"Obviously, it's an honor to be mentioned in that conversation," said Helton, who went 1-for-4 in Monday's 6-2 win over the Cardinals and has 367 career home runs and a .317 lifetime batting average. "That's for a later date."
Helton ended the question-and-answer session on a witty note, when he was asked if there was anything he wanted to accomplish in the season's final two weeks.
"I'd like to hit about 40 more homers," he said, with a smile.
Rosario, Arenado leave win with injuries
DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado left Monday night's 6-2 victory over the Cardinals in the third inning with a recurrence of a right thumb injury, and catcher Wilin Rosario left after his go-ahead RBI single because right calf cramping that had been present for a few days intensified.
Arenado, who is being mentioned in National League Gold Glove talk and could become the first rookie third baseman to win the award, and Rosario, a second-year catcher who's hitting .321 since the All-Star break, are key figures for the Rockies.
Though the Rockies are in last place in the NL West, they are battling the Cardinals, who are tied with the Pirates for first place in the NL Central, in a four-game series.
Josh Rutledge replaced Arenado in the batting order and played second base while DJ LeMahieu moved from second to third. Veteran Yorvit Torrealba caught the ninth inning.
Arenado has had problems with the thumb for the better part of a month, and missed a game during the last homestand with the injury. The thumb bothered him during his second-inning at-bat, which resulted in a groundout against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. He didn't play defense in the third.
Arenado is hitting .268 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in a team-leading 125 games. But he went 1-for-7 while playing twice in a three-game series at Arizona.
"In San Francisco [last week, when he went 5-for-12], I felt very good at the plate, but in Arizona I didn't feel so good," Arenado said. "I felt like I couldn't explode to the ball. That first at-bat [against the Cardinals], I couldn't get to the ball."
Rosario, hitting .292 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs as the Rockies' regular catcher, has played some first base recently to take pressure off his legs. He dealt with hamstring issues during an August road trip. He also missed three games during the last road trip because of an infected wisdom tooth. He has put off oral surgery until after the season so he can play as many games as possible.
He also does not want to sit out much with the calf issue, although he'll likely sit out Tuesday's game against the Cardinals.
"I hurt it when I got my first hit [in the seventh inning], and when I got my second hit I wanted to try to get a double, but I couldn't," Rosario said. "It's not pain, just a little cramp."
Gonzalez's finger to be examined -- again
DENVER -- Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said he has lost count of the number of doctors that he has seen about his sprained middle finger. But head athletic trainer Keith Dugger has kept count, and the number will rise to eight when he goes to Cleveland on Thursday.
"I'm getting sick and tired of seeing doctors, hearing the same thing," Gonzalez said. "Who knows? Maybe he'll say the same things the other ones said, but I hear he's one of the best ones."
The exams are beginning to lead Gonzalez toward surgery to correct the injury, which occurred in July.
Gonzalez tried to play through it until Aug. 4. He has made a few appearances recently as pinch-runner or defensive replacement -- including Monday's 6-2 win over the Cardinals when he entered in the eighth inning to play left field and was pinch-hit for when his turn in the lineup came up -- but he hasn't swung a bat in practice or a game and probably won't before the season ends.
Gonzalez saw Dr. Don Sheridan, a Phoenix specialist, who did the initial exam when he suffered the injury on July 7 against the D-backs. Although surgery is avoided in these cases because the finger joint usually permanently loses flexibility, Sheridan said it's an option because the condition hasn't improved through rest. The injury generally heals in 6-8 weeks, but since he stopped playing Gonzalez hasn't seen much improvement. He suffered a setback after playing two injury rehab games at Triple-A Colorado Springs in late August.
Dugger, who has arranged the various doctor visits, said the actual diagnosis of a sprain -- or slight tear -- of a ligament is unchanged. The reason surgery came up in the talk with Sheridan was the condition hasn't improved through the rest that is normally prescribed.
"The bottom line is CarGo will have to make the ultimate decision," Dugger said. "I do know one thing: The finger will become stiff and he won't have full range of motion after surgery. But we've been told they believe he'll be able to hold the bat with good strength."
With surgery, he would spend 6-8 weeks in a splint, then need another 6-8 weeks rehab, and would be prohibited from swinging a bat until December. The good news is without a setback, he would be fine for next spring.
"If I wait and it doesn't get better, I lose all that time," Gonzalez said. "I'm thinking about next year, getting ready for baseball."
Recovering De La Rosa plays catch
DENVER -- Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, whose bruised left thumb has postponed his next start, played catch before Monday night's game against the Cardinals, and is hoping to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday and return on Saturday against the D-backs.
De La Rosa (16-6, 3.49 ERA in 30 starts) also experienced pain on the index and middle fingers in his last start, a no-decision at San Francisco on Tuesday in which he lasted just two innings. If he returns when expected, he'll have two chances to eclipse his career-best victory total (16 in 2009). This season comes after he's missed most of the last two years with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
"Regardless if he gets it or not, it's been an amazing year, considering all the things he's gone through, missing as much time as he did, starting Spring Training and trying to knock the rust off," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said.
The Rockies are expected to exercise their $11 million club option for 2014 on De La Rosa, who believes Colorado can make significant improvement next season.
"This year is sad because there is enough talent here to compete with anybody," De La Rosa said. "We just have to fix the things we have to fix, and we can win."
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.