Helton Homers, Rockies Win

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Despite hitting over .300 this spring, Todd Helton is just starting to swing the bat well.

Helton hit a two-run homer Thursday for his first home run of the spring in the Colorado Rockies' 6-6 tie with the Texas Rangers.

Helton sent a 3-2 fastball from Luis Mendoza over the right-centerfield wall in the bottom of the fourth to highlight the Rockies' five-run inning.

"I think his swing is showing development," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's working on trying to bat the ball up a little bit, get the ball in a power position. I thought he took a nice step toward that today. It wasn't just about the home run, that's tangible. He took some swings in a better position to maximize the strength of his swing. He was a little freer with it."

Helton went 1-for-3 with a long fly ball down the right-field line. He was not available Thursday after being pulled in the sixth inning.

"He's grown so much as a hitter," Hurdle said. "He has so much more information now than when I first met him. He knows himself so well as a hitter. ... And I've probably seen more swings from him than anyone else."

Hurdle probably knows the five-time All-Star's swing better than anyone as he served as the club's hitting instructor before becoming Rockies manager in 2002.

Helton, who hit .320 in 2007, said he will stay in Tucson on Friday and Saturday while the Rockies travel to play two games in the Phoenix area so he can get more work in minor league games where he can get an at-bat in every inning.

For Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton, there is no doubt about his spring swing. The former No. 1 overall pick who was acquired in December from the Cincinnati Reds was 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. He raised his spring average to .577 and has a team-best 13 RBIs.

Rangers' third baseman Hank Blalock hit his first spring home run, a three-run shot in the top of the fifth inning off Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez.

Rangers shortstop Michael Young was 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Mendoza, competing for the Rangers' fifth spot in the rotation, allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1-3 inning. He walked on and hit a batter.

"I think my problem is I didn't use my change up too much," Mendoza said of Helton's home run. "I don't think I have a bad change up, I just need to mix it up some more."

Jimenez, who has been inconsistent this spring when pitching out of the stretch with runners on base, allowed five runs and eight hits with two walks in 4 2-3 innings, his longest outing of the spring. The Rockies No. 3 starter struck out six.

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