SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — As happy as Todd Helton was to see a few of his hits head out of the ballpark, he wouldn’t have minded waiting a few more weeks so they would count.
Colorado’s all-time home run leader with 347 hit his first two homers of the spring and Casey Blake added his first for the Rockies, all off Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto, in a 7-3 win over the Reds Sunday.
The 38-year-old Helton, who was hitting .375 with five doubles in 24 spring at-bats coming in, pulled a solo shot to right field in the second and added an opposite-field shot to left in the fourth with the bases empty.
“To take all you’re working on in the cage and have it translate into success in the game, it feels good,” said Helton, who has hit only 22 home runs over the last two seasons, 14 last year. “But I need to save them; they are so few and far between now.”
He has been bothered by periodic back trouble.
“(Saturday) I never really got loose — it’s just the way it goes,” he said. “But today, the back felt good and I felt like I had a little whip in the bat.
His second homer, off a 2-0 changeup from Cueto, was especially pleasing.
Hitting with power to left field “and to be able to stay back on the ball and stay through it is a big indicator,” he said.
Cueto, who had injury problems of his own this season, went six innings and allowed five runs and six hits. The home runs aside, he came away pleased.
“I was behind the count on Helton (both times), he just waited for a good pitch to hit,” Cueto said. “Other than that I feel strong and healthy. I worked hard in the Dominican. I’ve worked hard since we started training. I’m ready to start the season.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker played his starting lineup the whole way Sunday. Baker said he wanted his starters with the exception of Ryan Ludwig, who served as the designated hitter in a minor league game, to go the distance to help build their endurance.
“They will be off tomorrow and we have one more game for them to go nine,” he said. “We outhit them but they outhit us out of the ballpark. Cueto looked good but he couldn’t get Helton out and he left a pitch out over the plate to Blake.”
Blake’s two-run homer in the fifth was his first extra-base hit of the spring. Signed as a free agent in January, Blake came into the game hitting .118 (2 for 17) and missed a week with neck stiffness after undergoing surgery last September.
Brandon Roberts added a two-run double for Colorado. Starter Jhoulys Chacin allowed two runs over five innings.
Joey Votto, who had only five hits in 31 at-bats prior to Sunday, had an RBI single in the third and added a single in the fifth for the Reds. Chris Heisley had three of Cincinnati’s 11 hits while Zack Cozart had two and Brandon Phillips added a double and a run-scoring walk.
NOTE: The infamous Salt River Fields bees — who delayed a Rockies-Diamondbacks game earlier this spring — were back Sunday, swarming behind home plate and settling into an aisle seat about 10 rows behind home plate. The game was not delayed, but with a sellout crowd of 12,482 had to squeeze together when about 50 of the best seats in the house were surrounded by caution tape. The bees hung out, undisturbed until the park emptied.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)