NEW YORK -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he was "extremely encouraged" by Ubaldo Jimenez's bullpen session on Sunday, and as far as he's concerned, the right-hander is on track to return to the rotation, as expected, next Monday.

But a bigger test will present itself Wednesday, when Jimenez hurls an outing in the 90-pitch range during extended Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"We'll see how things move forward and how that finger reacts when he throws a number of pitches," Tracy said prior to Monday's game against the Mets at Citi Field. "If we have to move him a little further back, we'll move him a little further back. If not, then as I just mentioned, he's on target for the 18th."

Jimenez is on the 15-day disabled list with a cut on the cuticle of his right thumb, an injury that forced the 27-year-old to change his grip and give up six runs (five earned) on Opening Day.

Jorge De La Rosa, who was forced out of his last start after five innings because of a blister on his throwing hand, is progressing well and is still slated to make his next scheduled start.

Helton sits with long-term health in mind

NEW YORK -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy is well aware of Todd Helton's nice-looking numbers against Monday's opponent, Mike Pelfrey (6-for-10 with a homer, five RBIs and four walks). But he also knows how crucial a healthy Helton is for the long term.

So, in the series opener against the Mets at Citi Field, he gave his first baseman an extra day to rest his ailing back.

Helton, who hasn't started since his back locked up at PNC Park's wet field on Friday, went full-bore in batting and fielding practice during pregame and seems awfully close to getting back in Tracy's starting lineup.

Monday was just a bit too soon.

"My understanding is, just by watching him move around and stuff in there, [his back is] much improved over the last 48 hours, compared to where we were at two days ago," said Tracy, who started the right-handed-hitting Ty Wigginton in Helton's place. "Two days ago, it was somewhat touch-and-go as far as I was concerned. But he's made a lot of progress here in the last 48 hours."

Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Stewart, apparently, made plenty of progress in the last 24.

The two dealt with flu-like symptoms over the weekend, but each made the start on Monday -- with Gonzalez hitting in his usual No. 3 spot, and Stewart hitting seventh while making just his third start of the year.

Tracy said he took a little extra time filling out his lineup card on Monday. The re-emergence of Stewart, who Tracy believes is "back up to speed," allows Jose Lopez to get a day off. With regard to Gonzalez's state, the Rockies' skipper said he's "got nothing that came close to being, 'No, I can't [play].' Nothing."