GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton felt good enough to brave the hour or so it took to navigate the Phoenix-area traffic Friday afternoon and get ready to play a game. Call that yet another important step in the right direction.
Helton, whose history of back problems means he often is excused from Spring Training bus rides, was in the lineup for Friday night's game against the Reds. This was a night after he went 4-for-4 with an opposite-field home run in a Minor League game against a D-backs Double-A contingent.
Those are positive signs for Helton, who not only has long-running back issues but underwent surgery last August to repair a torn labrum in his right hip and had a surgery in November to repair cartilage in his left knee.
Helton, 39, added another reason for optimism Friday -- a two-run homer to right-center field off Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the fourth inning.
Helton says he is more interested in how he feels than his numbers. Before making the trip to Goodyear, Helton said he is happy with where he stands physically, as well as with the never-ending project that is his swing.
"Whenever you're working on something and you're able to execute it in games, you've got to be happy about it," Helton said. "Even if you do it in BP [batting practice], you're happy with it. To do it off of live pitching is even better.
"I feel really good physically. I'm in season mode, where I lift weights when I can but I'm just trying to stay where I'm at right now. I'm not trying to gain any more muscle and get in more baseball shape. I feel like I'm bouncing back pretty good right now."
Cuddyer not caught up in trade speculation
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With starting pitching considered their biggest weakness, the Rockies figure to be part of the trade-rumor mill. As was the case during the winter, some suggest that veteran outfielder-first baseman Michael Cuddyer be moved.
During the offseason the Rockies showed no inclination to move him, and they haven't indicated they'll change their minds this spring. Cuddyer made it clear Friday he does not want to be moved, and the talent the Rockies have could be better than analysts think.
"Full-bore Rockies -- everybody in this clubhouse's attitude should be that way," said Cuddyer, who went 3-for-3 and scored a run against the Reds on Friday night. "There's no reason to believe it shouldn't. There are going to be rumors out there on countless people for the next four months, but to start reading and believing you're going to be someplace else, you're not doing your teammates justice, the organization justice, and more importantly you're not doing yourself justice.
"I'm a Colorado Rockie. I'm excited. I wouldn't want anything different."
Cuddyer, who turns 34 on March 27, is in the second year of a three-year, $31.5 million contract. The dollar figure, plus the fact that he's an experienced player who an expected contender may want, could add up to trade bait. But during the winter, the Rockies identified Cuddyer as a leader who could help bring about quick change. New manager Walt Weiss is looking to bring aggression and crisp, fundamental play, and Cuddyer is seen as an important agent of those principles.
"When you're coming off a 98-loss season, the outside world doesn't think too much of you," said Cuddyer, who hit .260 with 16 home runs, 30 doubles and 58 RBIs in 101 games in a 2012 season cut short by an oblique injury. "You've got to have expectations bigger than that. We feel we're right there.
"We've got a good direction that we established four or five weeks ago, and we've stuck to that through games. There's tons of talent. I don't think anybody in baseball can question our talent. But it's executing, and that's what we are trying to hone in on this spring."
Cuddyer said the pitching staff as constructed has shown signs of developing the ground-ball-oriented style the Rockies believe will lead to victories.
"When we're turning three, four double plays in a game, that's pretty special," Cuddyer said. "If we continue that, that's how you win at home and on the road, turning walks or hits into double plays -- two for one, you're out of the inning, move on and let us go hit."
Friedrich likely to see first game action Monday
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Left-hander Christian Friedrich began camp battling tightness in his lower back but was ready to work his way back into game action last week. However, rainy weather played havoc with his schedule. Now, after facing hitters twice, he is looking to throw in game action on Monday.
Friedrich went 5-8 with a 6.17 ERA in 16 starts as a rookie last season before a stress fracture in the right side of his lower back kept him off the mound after July 28. He came to camp hoping to compete for a rotation spot, and now time is working against him.
"Throwing to the mitt only gets you so far," said Friedrich, who hopes to add a changeup to keep hitters off his two-seam fastball and help him force more grounders -- one of the absolutes for new manager Walt Weiss. "It helps you find your command, but there's nothing like throwing in a live game."
Friedrich said he does not know if he'll pitch in a Cactus League game or a Minor League contest, but he expects to go two innings Monday.
Rockies trim roster at big league camp to 52
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Rockies optioned five players to Minor League camp on Friday. Just one of them, right-handed reliever Will Harris, appeared in the Majors last season.
Harris, fellow right-handers Joe Gardner and Josh Sullivan, infielder Ryan Wheeler and outfielder Tim Wheeler were sent down.
The moves reduce the Rockies to 52 players in Major League camp, including 18 non-roster invitees.
Rosenbaum in Rockies' mix for middle relief
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One has to be looking for left-hander Danny Rosenbaum's locker at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick to find it. It's hidden from the center of the room by a partition.
It's a fitting place for a guy who could be a big part of the Rockies when the season starts but could very well not be here at all. As a Rule 5 Draft pick, Rosenbaum must make the squad and stick throughout the season or be offered back to the Nationals -- his former club -- for $50,000.
Rosenbaum has put up a nice argument for himself in the competition for a middle-relief spot. He threw a scoreless ninth inning -- he walked a batter with one out but forced a double-play grounder -- as the Rockies beat the Reds, 5-1, on Friday night. Rosenbaum is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in eight innings covering eight appearances.
Rosenbaum has liked the opportunity but admits it's odd not knowing how long he'll be around.
"I've been a little bit more to myself because I don't know what's going to happen, but I didn't want to just sit here and be by myself, reading the newspaper," said Rosenbaum, 25, who was never in Major League camp with the Nationals and hasn't pitched above Double-A, although he has a 2.84 ERA through four Minor League seasons. "I wanted to interact, meet all these new guys and get to know everyone. Everyone's been real welcoming. That's made my job a lot easier."
Having never competed for a big league job and never as a reliever, Rosenbaum said he received help from Nationals middle reliever Craig Stammen.
"When I found out that was the role I was going to be put in, I tried to pick his brain because he was one of the best middle-relief guys in the game last year," Rosenbaum said. "We threw some bullpens and I tried to seek out some things.
"He said, 'Don't change anything. They're big league hitters for a reason, but don't make it bigger than it is. Just go out and do your thing. You're here for a reason. Just compete.'"
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.