SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Even if it is earlier than he wants, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton is happy his swing has arrived.Helton lashed two home runs off of the Reds' Johnny Cueto in the Rockies' 7-3 victory on Sunday afternoon. The first was to right field. The second, an opposite-way shot to left, told Helton what he needed to know. "That is the indication," Helton said. "It was a 2-0 changeup. To be able to stay back on that ball, and to stay through it is a big indicator."
At 38, Helton has continued to hit for average, but his power has declined in recent years because of chronic back problems. This spring, Helton is hitting .407, along with the two homers and five RBIs. He showed on Sunday he can still scorch a pitch, but he's not going to feel that way every day."Yesterday, I never really got loose, but today my back felt good, and I felt like I had a little whip in the bat," he said. The only drawback is that it's 12 days before the Rockies open the regular season in Houston. "I need to save them, because they are so few and far between now," he said.
White impresses in push for bullpen role
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rockies have asked right-hander Alex White to make a late push for a spot in the bullpen, and White responded with two scoreless innings during Sunday's 7-3 victory over the Reds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.White gave up two hits, but trumped those with three strikeouts. White, whom the Rockies acquired when they sent former ace Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians, went 2-4 with an 8.42 ERA, and yielded 12 home runs in 36 1/3 innings in seven starts late last season. White was making his Rockies debut after recovering from an injury to his right middle finger, and could not effectively throw his slider. This spring began with White competing for a rotation spot. Although his slider was better, it wasn't consistent. Now the Rockies have eliminated White from the starter competition, but are seeing if work in shorter stints will help him command the slider, which could complement his sinking fastball. It was his second short stint of the spring. "He had a very live fastball, was throwing strikes," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "He did a very good job of locating his breaking ball, but he did throw some sliders that had more side-to-side action than they did depth. "You'd like to see a little bit of depth to that slider, because if the ball is not as well-located, those things get hit real hard, and sometimes real far. But definitely a big step forward, as good an outing as he's had this spring." Tracy said the Rockies have not determined if they'll convert him back to a starter if he does not break camp with them. The Rockies have made that decision with right-hander Esmil Rogers. After giving up two runs, on two-out doubles, Saturday against the Giants, Rogers pitched a dominant ninth inning, with one strikeout, on Sunday. "That was power stuff, and real good power stuff," Tracy said. Lefty Matt Reynolds gave up three hits and walked in a run on Sunday, but two of those hits were along the ground, and the walk to Brandon Phillips was OK with Tracy.
Tracy encouraged by Blake's performance
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy was encouraged by the performance of third baseman Casey Blake, who hit a two-run homer off of Reds starter Johnny Cueto during the Rockies' 7-3 victory on Sunday.Blake, 38, missed a week with neck muscle soreness, a red flag since his 2011 season with the Dodgers ended early because of neck surgery. At one point this spring, Blake was 0-for-14. But he had two hits in his previous game, and followed that up with Sunday's home run. The one-year, $2 million contract Blake signed doesn't become official until he makes the season-opening roster. "He does things like that," Tracy said. "Casey's bat is livelier since we got him back from the training room. We're getting him out there, giving him as much as we possibly can give him without overdoing it." Blake finished 1-for-3.
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.