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Helton powers Rockies to 7-1 win

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Associated Press
March 24, 2009
— Todd Helton hit a towering home run and played seven innings in the field for a second straight game, further proof that his surgically repaired back is feeling just fine.

The Colorado first baseman finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs, leading the Rockies to a 7-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday.


It was Helton’s team-leading fourth homer of the spring. Ryan Spilborghs and journeyman catcher Sal Fasano also homered for Colorado.


Helton struggled with a disk problem in his lower back last season, which eventually landed him on the disabled list and then on the operating table.


With his back mending, his power has steadily returned.


“He’s taking good swipes,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s barreling balls up. He’s doing well, very well.”


Ubaldo Jimenez was at his bat-breaking best during six scoreless innings for the Rockies, allowing just three hits.


In all, he shattered eight Brewers bats, sending shards of wood flying all over the diamond.


“He was crisp, had good rhythm, kept the ball down,” Hurdle said. “It was a very effective outing.”


That was due to Jimenez’s movement on his two-seam fastball. He had 12 groundball outs, including a 4-6-3 double play in the sixth that got him out of a potential jam.


“Everything was perfect. I was able to locate my fastball,” Jimenez said. “That’s what I’m really happy about.”


Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo struggled with his location, allowing six runs and six hits in five innings.


“Pretty much the hits they got were pitches up in the zone,” said Gallardo, who threw five no-hit innings against Arizona in his last outing. “I think all my pitches are pretty much right where they need to be. The couple of times I’ve gotten hit, it wasn’t because my stuff wasn’t there—my pitches were up in the zone.”


Spilborghs was back in the lineup after leaving the team Friday night to attend the memorial service for his mother, Esperanza, in Santa Barbara, Calif. She died Feb. 27 due to complications from a lung infection.


The Rockies outfielder gave a heartfelt eulogy Saturday, telling stories about their bond. Spilborghs has her name—which means “hope” in Spanish—tattooed on his left wrist.


“I tried to do it from the heart, but it was hard,” he said of his speech. “That pain is always going to be there, but it’s a good pain because it’s acknowledging how much I did love her. She won’t be around ever again to really watch me play, but I know in my heart she’s watching me somewhere.”


Spilborghs is having a strong spring, hitting .368 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. He’s pretty much wrapped up the starting job in center field.



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