MLB notebook: Rockies' Morneau will fill Helton's spot at 1st

| Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 7:39 p.m.

If you're going to replace Todd Helton at first base in Colorado while wearing Larry Walker's old number, you better have a solid resume.

The Rockies are convinced four-time All-Star and former American League MVP Justin Morneau is the answer as they begin the post-Helton era.

“It'd be tough for anybody to have to fill those shoes,” manager Walt Weiss said of Helton, the freshly retired five-time All-Star who holds nearly every Rockies career offensive record. “But we're doing it with a guy that's been a league MVP and has been an elite player in this league.”

Morneau signed a two-year, $12.5 million free-agent deal in December. He was in his 11th season with the Twins before being traded to Pirates late last season.

Morneau is a career .277 hitter with 221 home runs. He played in 152 games last season and hit .259.

• Pitcher Justin Masterson and the Indians agreed to a one-year contract worth $9,762,500 and avoided a salary arbitration hearing. Masterson, a 28-year-old right-hander, led the Indians in wins last year when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA.

• Rangers ace Yu Darvish was in a joking mood Tuesday at spring training. Darvish wisecracked that the Yankees might have paid too much for fellow Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka by giving him a seven-year, $155 million contract on top of a $20 million posting fee to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. “I don't know the details of the posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him a little bit too much,” Darvish said with a chuckle through his interpreter.

• Derek Jeter's retirement announcement will soon seem a lot more real for Yankees manager Joe Girardi. The Yankees captain said last week in a statement that this will be his final season, and he planned to discuss his decision during a news conference at Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday, when New York's position players report for spring training. “It's probably going to set in a little more because I'm actually going to hear it instead of reading it and see it come out of his mouth,” Girardi said.

• The Nationals plan to give the longtime third baseman Ryan Zimmerman work at first this year, a position he has not played in the pros. New manager Matt Williams said Tuesday it's more of a strategic ploy to add an extra right-handed hitter to the lineup against tough lefty starters. Zimmerman said he envisions playing perhaps 10-15 games at first.

— AP

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