DENVER (AP) — 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. He was the 2006 American League MVP while a member of the Minnesota Twins, batting .321 that season with 34 homers and 130 RBIs.
Last season, he was traded from the Twins — the only organization he had ever known — to the Pittsburgh Pirates for their playoff run. That was an interesting experience.
"Just kind of not being settled was completely different. At the same time, it was exciting — to play in a new league and all the new opponents and all that stuff was fun," Morneau said.
And this is another new start for him, with some familiar faces in the clubhouse. He's reuniting with outfielder Michael Cuddyer, his former teammate in Minnesota. Cuddyer actually played a big role in Morneau's arrival at Coors Field, delivering a pretty effective sales pitch. The two talked and texted quite a bit before Morneau decided to sign, which meant Cuddyer could stay in right field and not have to move to first base.