SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton plans to play more and play harder this spring than in the past. But his appearance was purely for show in Saturday's opener -- he squatted behind the plate and caught a ceremonial first pitch.
When Helton does join Cactus League action, he insists there will be no taking it easy because of back problems. The team trained in Tucson, Ariz., and took long bus rides before this year, and Helton has been excused from those trips for years.
"I don't even know how many at-bats somebody usually gets in Spring Training -- just say more than last year," Helton said. "I hope it's more productive than fun. I'd like to get a lot accomplished."
Manager Jim Tracy talked with Helton on Saturday and said he'll most likely make his debut Monday against the D-backs. Tracy also said veteran pinch-hitter Jason Giambi will be available.
Helton hit .259 with a home run and three RBIs in 27 at-bats last spring.
Ubaldo out to take care of unfinished business
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will never forget his breakout season of 2010, but the best part of starting Spring Training on Saturday with two scoreless innings in the Rockies' 8-7 10-inning win over the D-backs is that last year is officially in the past.
"Last year is over -- whatever I did, whatever we did, that's in the past," said Jimenez, who won a team-record 19 games and became the first Rockies pitcher to start an All-Star Game. "I'm trying to do better this year. We feel we have unfinished business. We didn't finish the way we wanted."
Jimenez started nicely. He walked Kelly Johnson with a full count and gave up a Gerardo Parra hit before forcing a Stephen Drew double-play grounder and a Chris Young popup. Wily Mo Pena's single didn't create much damage in an otherwise clean second inning.
2010 Spring Training - Colorado Rockies
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Jimenez may be baseball's hardest-throwing starter. Although his fastball looked lively, he insisted he "wasn't throwing that hard."
Right-hander Greg Reynolds gave up an opposite-field home run to the second batter he faced, Johnson, but gave up no additional hits and finished his two innings with a pair of strikeouts.
"He gave up the home run, and what you're anxious to see is are we going to get tentative to the next hitter, and are we going to try to make absolute perfect pitches and just deepen the hole?" said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "He bounced back and went right back to attacking and right back to pounding the strike zone, and ended up having himself a very nice outing."
Reynolds, the Rockies' top Draft pick in 2006, made it to the Majors in 2008 but has been bothered by injuries ever since.
Rockies' double-play combo seems seamless
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies' new double-play combination seemed as if it had been around a long time Saturday afternoon.
With two on and no outs in the first inning, the D-backs' Stephen Drew hit a bouncer that forced Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to move toward third base. He made a pinpoint throw, and second baseman Jose Lopez, who joined the team in an offseason trade with the Mariners, easily made the double-play pivot.
"That wasn't the easiest ball in the world," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "The first one that you field is pushing [Tulowitzki] over toward the 5-6 hole, then he makes the type of throw that he made to Lopie. But that's Tulowitzki. He couldn't have walked over and handed it to him in any better shape.
"But that's something you sit here and concern yourself with. Fourth day for us as a full squad, now you're over in the stadium and you're playing a game against another Major League club, and the speed of the action picks up about tenfold."
Tulowitzki said there is no reason to worry.
Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes made for a formidable middle-infield combination, but the Rockies traded Barmes to the Astros after last season. However, Tulowitzki has worked with multiple second basemen and doesn't see why there would be a huge adjustment period -- as long as both players do their jobs.
"I can work with a guy and get a good feel for him," Tulowitzki said. "It's the same game out there. I don't really buy into, 'You have to work with a guy for a month or so.' It would take a couple days with whoever it is. I'll feel comfortable with that person."
Tracy gets scare with near-collision in left field
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy gathered the Rockies for fielding drills Saturday morning before their Cactus League opener against the D-backs, emphasizing situations with two fielders going for a popup. It took all of one hitter for the issue to arise.
Leadoff hitter Kelly Johnson popped an Ubaldo Jimenez pitch into the third-base foul area. Left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and third baseman Ian Stewart went dashing to the same spot. Gonzalez slid. Stewart didn't jump, so he tumbled.
"I was looking for a Jolly Rancher when I saw what we were heading for," Tracy said.
Both emerged uninjured. But with the team together for only four practices, Tracy had reason to be apprehensive.
"We had a couple between infielders and outfielders where the outfielder had to run the infielder off, we had a popup over by our dugout where here comes [catcher Mike] McKenry and [first baseman Mike] Jacobs, and Jacobs runs McKenry off," Tracy said. "Some of the things we've done up to this point have been basically to get our structure in there. But to really hone in on it, we haven't had enough time just yet.
"But you want to feel you've put the structure in there. The last thing you want to do is to be sitting in this chair and have two guys come face-to-face, and you're looking around saying, 'We haven't done that yet.' That would be something that would cost me a few nights worth of sleep."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.