December 14, 2013 in Sports

MLB notebook: Justin Morneau signs 2-year deal with Rockies

Associated Press

(Full-size photo)

Justin Morneau made this perfectly clear: He’s stepping in for Todd Helton, not replacing the longtime Colorado Rockies first baseman.

Because filling Helton’s cleats, he said, simply can’t be done.

“(Helton) is irreplaceable, the impact he had in the clubhouse,” Morneau said Friday after finalizing a two-year, $12.5 million deal.

Morneau realizes the comparisons are inevitable as he inherits the position from Helton, who retired after a 17-year career in the Mile High City. He understands, but “we’re different people, we’re different players,” he quickly added.

They do have one glaring thing in common, though: their fielding prowess at first base. Since 2003, Morneau’s fielding percentage (.996) is second to only Helton (.997).

“I don’t think anybody will ever fill those shoes in that organization,” Morneau said of Helton. “You see how rare it is for someone to play their entire career with one organization and put up the numbers he did throughout his career. His career is Hall of Fame worthy, for sure.

“I’m going to try and do the things I do well and not really try to replace anyone or be anyone else. Just help this team win ballgames.”

Over his 11-year career, Morneau is a .277 hitter and a four-time All-Star. The 32-year-old was the 2006 American League MVP while with the Minnesota Twins, batting .321 that season with 34 homers and 130 RBIs.

Napoli all smiles

Mike Napoli is thrilled to be back with players who helped make last season what he says was the best time of his eight-year career.

One day after finalizing a $32 million, two-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, Napoli said it’s a relief to get that done so soon. Last year he didn’t have a deal until late January as he and the team altered the original agreement when the Red Sox learned of a condition in both hips.

The new contract has no protection for the team against the hip condition.

Clearing the bases

The Kansas City Royals and 2B Omar Infante are nearing an agreement on a four-year contract. Infante hit .318 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 118 games for Detroit last season. … The Pittsburgh Pirates signed RHP Edinson Volquez and INF Clint Barmes to one-year deals. An All-Star in 2008, the 30-year-old Volquez went 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA in 2013 while splitting time with the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Barmes hit .211 in 108 games for Pittsburgh last season. … The Detroit Tigers finalized their $2.5 million, one-year deal with RHP Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain joins a retooled bullpen that also includes free-agent acquisition Joe Nathan.

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