CINCINNATI -- Todd Helton arrived at the Rockies' clubhouse on Saturday saying his stiff back felt good, but the test will be baseball activities.
Helton was supposed to participate in batting practice before the game against the Reds, but a late-afternoon rainstorm kept the Rockies off the field. He was expected to take swings in the batting cage, however.
Helton was optimistic enough to say anything is possible. Asked his best-case scenario, Helton said "return the 20th [Tuesday]," which happens to be when he is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list. But a return in three days is highly unlikely, since the Rockies have players perform Minor League injury rehab assignments whenever possible.
"If I could hit, like, 114 home runs that game, that would be good, too, and hopefully help us win ballgames" Helton said.
Helton, hitting .246 with two home runs and 16 RBIs through a season full of struggles, received an epidural injection in his back, and said it has given him relief as far as everyday life goes, but he hasn't tested it with baseball activities.
Helton made the trip to Cincinnati with the club but did not participate in batting practice on Friday.
The Rockies gave regular right fielder Brad Hawpe his first Major League start at first base on Saturday. Hawpe and veteran Jason Giambi, a pair of left-handed hitters, will share first-base against right-handed pitching. Right-handed hitting Brad Eldred will start against left-handers.
Manager Jim Tracy said that unless Hawpe can get comfortable at first base, he plans to remove him for defensive purposes in close games. Utility man Melvin Mora could figure into the first-base mix in such a situation.
Cook always glad to pitch in hometown
CINCINNATI -- Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook grew up in nearby Hamilton, Ohio, which makes his start on Sunday afternoon against the Reds at Great American Ballpark a home game of sorts. Cook will take a home game any time he can get it.
Cook is 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in eight starts at home, but 0-5 with a 6.70 ERA other places.
"My wife and kids won't be here, but everyone else from Hamilton will be here," Cook said. "Hopefully, it will be like a home game for me. I always enjoy coming back here."
Cook said he intentionally doesn't try to dissect the reasons for the discrepancy between his home and road numbers.
"It's kind of aggravating, but I'm trying not to focus on the rest of my numbers," Cook said. "A game is a game. I can't focus too much on this or that. Just prepare and let the game be played."
In addition to being where he grew up, Cook carries another advantage into Sunday. He was able to throw a bullpen session Friday at Great American Ball Park, which gave him an idea of how the humidity would affect his sinker.
Cook said he got a kick out of seeing Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who went to high school in Hamilton, have a parkway named after him this week. Is Cook in line for such an honor?
"Maybe, if I get older," Cook said. "That's something that's pretty cool. Last year, we got the key to the city and them giving him a street this year is really, really neat. Hamilton takes pride in its baseball, no matter what level it is, Little League, high school, no matter what."
Cook's No. 11 at Hamilton High School was retired recently. The Reds' honoring of the 1990 world champions on Friday and the newest club Hall of Fame members on Saturday brought back special memories. Shortstop Barry Larkin, who wore No. 11 for the Reds, was Cook's favorite player.
Seeing MC Hammer makes Baylor reminisce
CINCINNATI -- Friday night's MC Hammer appearance before and after the Reds' 3-2 victory over the Rockies brought a smile to the face of Rockies hitting coach Don Baylor.
As a player, Baylor had two tours with the Athletics, in 1976 and 1988. On the first tour, a presence around the clubhouse as a batboy was a young man from Oakland named Stanley Kirk Burrell, who would grow up to be MC Hammer.
"He was just a real young hustler at the time," Baylor said. "He would do anything -- go out and get food for the guys."
Baylor said veteran players would good-naturedly ride the young Hammer, so nicknamed because of his facial resemblance to Hank Aaron. A well-known part of Hammer's biography is the fact some players would accuse him of being an informant for then-A's owner Charlie Finley.
Baylor, however, said there was something special about Hammer, and other young men who had humble upbringings in Oakland.
"A lot of guys from his area -- Rickey Henderson, Lloyd Moseby, Gary Pettis, Dave Stewart -- went on to play baseball," Baylor said. "Now, [Hammer] could go out and play catch, but I don't think he could play. He was more of an entertainer.
"That's how he got the job with Finley. He used to walk in all the time and this kid would be out there as one of the early rappers. He did everything, just to get his attention. The A's were his hometown team."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.