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04/30/09 4:08 AM ET

Helton locking in as Rockies hit road

Colorado (8-12) at San Francisco (10-10), 8:15 p.m. MT

DENVER -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton opened the season slowly, hitting .150 through April 13. Since then, he has raised his average to .303.

In Wednesday's 7-5 victory over the Padres, he knocked his second home run of the season and drove in three runs to lift his RBI total to 15. He had just 29 last year as he missed half the season with back problems.

As the Rockies prepare to begin a six-game National League West road trip on Friday night against the Giants at AT&T Park, Helton believes he can reach a higher level. In Spring Training, Helton hit .525 with four home runs in 14 games.

No one expects hits in more than half his at-bats the way he did in the Cactus League, but Helton believes he is capable of improvement as his timing improves.

"I feel a little better with my swings. I'm not exactly where I was in the spring or where I need to be, but I saw the ball better today, which is a start," Helton said.

He refused to blame the poor start on an early slate of scheduled days off and rest days given to him by manager Clint Hurdle.

"I didn't play every game in the spring, so that's not a valid excuse," Helton said. "I looked for excuses, trust me. I didn't find any."

Hurdle said, "It's good when you see him start finding the barrel and driving the ball, and you've seen that a little more lately."

Pitching matchup
COL: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (1-3, 7.58 ERA)
After throwing seven innings of shutout ball in his first start, Jimenez has struggled with his mechanics and his command. He has been unable to finish five innings in his past three starts, giving up 16 earned runs in 12 innings. Facing the Dodgers at Coors Field Saturday, Jimenez was erratic in his delivery and his pitches missed the target by a large margin. When he found the strike zone, he hit too much of it, allowing Los Angeles to tee off with five consecutive hits in the four-run first.

SF: LHP Randy Johnson (1-2, 6.16 ERA)
Johnson followed up his best start of the season with his worst start in nearly a decade -- at least in terms of command. The seven walks he issued in only 3 1/3 innings on Saturday in Arizona were his most since he issued the same number of free passes on July 25, 2000. Johnson may have been guilty of trying to overthrow in his emotional visiting debut in Chase Field, as he was consistently outside. He won't have the extra baggage in his next attempt at career win No. 297.

Rockies utilityman Jeff Baker is on the 15-day disabled list because of a left wrist sprain he suffered Sunday in the final at-bat of a three-RBI performance. He was surprised to be deactivated before Wednesday's game. "It's getting better each day," said Baker, who learned of the DL stint from head trainer Keith Dugger but had not been told by the staff. "I thought I'd be ready to go here soon. But apparently not." ... Righty Ryan Speier, on the DL with a right hamstring strain, threw a 45-pitch bullpen session -- 30 pitches, rest, then 15 more -- on Wednesday and will throw again in San Francisco. ... Lefty Franklin Morales is a week away from resuming throwing. He's out with a strained throwing shoulder. ... The 2-for-4 performance by previously slumping shortstop Troy Tulowitzki marked his first multi-hit game of the season.

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Up next
• Saturday: Rockies (Jason Marquis, 3-1, 4.10) at Giants (Matt Cain, 2-0, 2.08), 2:05 p.m. MT
• Sunday: Rockies (Jason Hammel, 0-0, 5.59) at Giants (Barry Zito, 0-2, 5.24), 2:05 p.m. MT
• Monday: Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa, 0-2, 3.57) at Padres (TBD), 8:05 p.m. MT

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.