Notes: Hawpe continues power surge

Notes: Hawpe continues surge

TUCSON, Ariz. -- At some point, Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe will get around to hitting singles. It's just not high on his priority list.

Hawpe knocked a three-run homer in the first inning of Monday's 7-5 victory over the Diamondbacks at Tucson Electric Park. He has three Cactus League hits this year -- a homer, a double and a triple.

None of the numbers count, so Hawpe is focusing on what's important to him, which is hitting the ball hard. Hard hits tend to go for extra bases -- or, as in the case with Monday's fastball from Dustin Nippert -- over the wall.

"I've got to have the right leverage, that extension through the baseball, and in order to do that, I've got to be on time, get my foot down, get through the baseball," he said. "A home run is better than a jam shot or broken-bat, off-the-end-of-the-bat single. That's not what I'm looking for. It's the right point of contact and the right extension afterwards.

"If I'd gone 3-for-3 today with three broken-bat singles, I wouldn't be like, 'Wow, I was 3-for-3.' That's not the point right now."

Hawpe hit fifth Monday but will hit sixth in the regular lineup. Having such a power hitter in that position makes the Rockies' lineup clearly the best in the National League West and, arguably, tops in the league.

Hawpe hit .291 with a .539 slugging percentage, 29 home runs and 116 RBIs in 2007. No West team had better than a .284 average, .452 slugging percentage, 20 homers or 79 RBIs out of the No. 6 spot. The Mets' No. 6 hitters batted .299, and the Phillies were close to Hawpe at .289, but neither team matched Hawpe's run production or slugging.

It's a stretch: The good part of Monday for Kip Wells was he pitched well out of the stretch. But the other side of it was he allowed six baserunners -- two hits, three walks and a hit batsman -- in his three innings. Although Wells held the Diamondbacks to one run, he left much to improve.

"He needs to be more efficient with his pitches," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "I know Spring Training is the time to work on things. But we need to be throwing strikes. We need to be ahead in counts. That'll be the next step for him next time out.

"He was able to get outs when he had to today, which is never a bad thing. But when you continually pitch out of the stretch, you put yourself in delicate situations.

Baker back: Second base candidate Jeff Baker missed three days with a bruised left elbow, but returned Monday. He came off the bench to go 1-for-2 with an RBI.

"Being able to play is what it's all about," Baker said. "I wanted to be able to play and compete, see how I'm progressing at second."

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Different ways to attack a snake: Aaron Cook went three innings against the Diamondbacks and gave up two hits -- an Orlando Hudson triple in the first inning and a Chris Young solo shot in the third.

Cook relies on his sinker and that won't change. But he and catcher Yorvit Torrealba decided that he'd throw a four-seam fastball about half the time, and use his cut fastball more than usual.

With the exception of the cutter that missed high and wound up as the Young home run, Cook was happy. The four-seamer jammed left-handed hitters. He's also hoping to use it to stay inside against right-handers.

"In Spring Training last year, I used my changeup a little bit more," Cook said. "This year I'm using my four-seamer and cutter a little bit more. When you're in Spring Training, you've actually got a lot of freedom to go out there and work on your stuff."

Last year, the Rockies pitted Cook against lefty Jeff Francis in competition for the Opening Day start, which Cook made. This year, the Rockies announced before Spring Training began that Francis would start the March 31 opener on the road against the Cardinals.

Signed and sealed: The Rockies announced Monday that they've reached contract agreements with all of their pre-arbitration players. With such players, the team has the right to renew their contracts at a salary they see fit, based on experience level, should the player not agree, but there were no such squabbles.

Up next: The Rockies will play the Royals at Hi Corbett Field on Tuesday, with right-handed No. 3 starter prospect Ubaldo Jimenez getting the ball. Rotation hopeful Victor Zambrano also is scheduled to pitch. Ian Stewart will get his crack at second base. Todd Helton and Matt Holliday will have the day off from the starting lineup.

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