Todd Helton's absence from the lineup has grown from a function of a team not contending to a concern. He hasn't played since last Tuesday because of a stiff back despite getting a cortisone shot to relieve the pain. To ease his own mind, Helton told The Post on Wednesday that he underwent an MRI recently, which showed no damage that would require surgery.

"That was good news. There's nothing like that going on," said Helton, who had back surgery after the 2008 season. "It feels a little better. I can move around, but I can't play yet."