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State Rep. Rena Moran launches campaign for Ramsey County commissioner



State Rep. Rena Moran launches campaign for Ramsey County commissioner

State Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, on Monday said that she will run for the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners this fall.

St. Paul House Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul. (Jean Pieri / Pioneer Press)

Moran’s campaign launch follows longtime Commissioner Toni Carter’s announcement last week that she intends to retire from the board after her current term expires at the end of the year. Since 2005, Carter has been commissioner of District 4, which includes the St. Paul neighborhoods of Summit-University, St. Anthony Park, Macalester-Groveland, Hamline-Midway, Summit Hill, Crocus Hill, Desnoyer Park, Lexington-Hamline, Merriam Park, Snelling-Hamline and Highland Park.

Now in her sixth term, Moran was first elected to the House in 2010 and last year was appointed to chair the House Ways and Means committee, serving as the first woman of color to lead the panel which has broad jurisdiction over the state budget. She previously was chair of a House health and human services committee and also was a founder and chair of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and currently chairs the United Black Legislative Caucus.

“I’m grateful to Commissioner Carter for her friendship, leadership and service to our community,” Moran said in a Monday statement. “I’m also deeply grateful to the people of House District 65A for their support over the last 12 years. The past couple of years have been difficult for all of us. There are challenges facing all of us. There are also opportunities. The issues that our families and communities face are real.”

House District 65A includes the Rondo, Frogtown, Summit-University, Thomas-Dale, Midway and parts of the North End and Cathedral Hill neighborhoods. The district’s eastern border is Rice Street, which abuts the state Capitol.

Moran said as county commissioner she would focus on public health, access to family economic assistance, transit and creating economic opportunities. She also mentioned “reimagining public safety and criminal justice” and focusing on “the immediacy of climate change.”

“I know firsthand how important programs administered by the county are for families struggling to stay independent,” she said. “Providing a hand up, being present in moments of crisis is what we need to do. Always keeping in mind that creating independence is our ultimate goal. Provide support so that people do more than just survive, they thrive.”


Moran lives in the Summit-University neighborhood and is a mother seven children eight grandchildren.

Moran was born and raised in Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education from Southern Illinois University, and then returned to her hometown to teach. In 2000, she packed up her family and relocated to the Twin Cities, where she and her kids landed at a Sharing and Caring Hands homeless shelter in Minneapolis.

After several years in the corporate world, she quit her commodities job and decided to become a community organizer. She organized a block club in her neighborhood, joined a local district council and signed up for training as a Wellstone Organizing Fellow.

In 2010, she and some friends attended their first DFL precinct caucus, and Moran was elected a delegate to the party’s legislative endorsing convention. Three weeks before the convention, then-Rep. Cy Thao announced he was stepping down from the Legislature, and Moran’s friends encouraged her to run for the open seat.


Moran would join several former state legislators who have made the move to county commissioner seats in recent years, including Ramsey County Commissioner Mary Jo McGuire, who served in the house and senate. In Dakota County, the list includes Joe Atkins, Mary Liz Holberg and Laurie Halverson, who in 2020 took a county board seat from former state Rep. Diane Anderson.

In 2022, salaries for Ramsey County commissioners will range from $97,102 to $97,588.

The current base pay for a state rep is $48,250.

Bill Salisbury contributed to this report.


Twins power way to series victory in Oakland with 14-4 rout in finale



Twins power way to series victory in Oakland with 14-4 rout in finale

OAKLAND, Calif. — Before Sonny Gray threw his first pitch on Wednesday, the veteran starter was sitting on a three-run lead. It was that kind of day for the Twins, who put on a show on offense and rode a quality start from Gray to a 14-4 victory and a series win over the Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.

The Twins opened up the game in the first inning, using four hits and a walk to produce their three runs. Gary Sánchez, who has started to heat up as of late, dropped a broken-bat single into left field to give the Twins a two-run lead. Gio Urshela followed with an RBI single of his own.

The Twins tacked on runs throughout the game, including a five-run sixth inning in which they broke the game wide open.

Carlos Correa, activated off the injured list earlier in the day, finished with two hits and a walk. He drove in a run on a double to center in the fourth, part of a two-run inning that included a Luis Arraez RBI double. Arraez finished the day with a team-leading three hits.

That was more than enough support for Gray, who threw six innings in his longest start of the season. While he ran into some trouble in the earlier innings, he seemed to settle in later, retiring the final 10 batters he faced.

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What’s behind Gleyber Torres’ early season resurgence?



What’s behind Gleyber Torres’ early season resurgence?

Gleyber Torres, at just 25 years old, has already lived several lives in pinstripes.

He was the anointed one, the heir apparent to Alfonso Soriano, a two-time All-Star and a playoff hero, all before his 23rd birthday.

Then the pitfalls that many people face in their early-to-mid-20s began to rear their ugly heads. The pandemic certainly didn’t help, but even in 2021 as things returned to normalcy, Torres was dreadful at his job. The former top prospect who looked like a pillar of the Yankees’ next great team instead lost his starting shortstop gig. When he was in the starting lineup, he was often buried in the seventh spot.

When Torres was officially moved off of shortstop at the end of last season, his manager said of his defensive issues at the high-pressure position, “I feel like it’s been a weight on him.” Trade talks swirled, as the combination of poor play and the impending free agency of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and others made Torres seem like the odd man out.

Instead, the Yankees stood pat on free agent shortstops, kept Torres, and traded for a defensive maestro in Isiah Kiner-Falefa. With the stability of knowing that he’d still be a Yankee, plus not having to worry about playing shortstop anymore, Torres has started 2022 with a bang.

As of Wednesday morning, Torres has a 117 wRC+ and .741 OPS, both his highest since 2019, the last time he consistently punished the baseball. After five straight hitless games in mid-April, Torres turned things around with a pinch-hit single in Detroit. Though his eighth-inning knock ended up being mostly meaningless — he was stranded on the bases and the Yankees lost 3-0 — that plate appearance did something to get him back on track.

Starting with that game, Torres has slashed .301/.342/.521. Seven of his 22 hits in that span have gone for extra bases, including four home runs. As a result, his numbers on the young season show a completely different player than the one who sulked through two straight soul crumbling campaigns.

“Last year was a very [hard] struggle for me,” Torres said after driving in five runs in a win over Toronto on May 11. “All the work I put in the offseason, I can show that every time I go to home plate. I mean I can still learn the game.”

Glancing at his numbers, the things that Torres has seemed to learn this year are fairly simple, and also a very common school of thought across Major League Baseball right now. He’s mashing fastballs, putting the ball in the air more often, and as a result, he’s making a lot more hard contact.

In 2021, as Torres’ overall slugging percentage sagged to a career-low .366, fastballs were one of the main culprits. He slugged a not-ideal .352 on heaters, and with two strikes, fastballs resulted in a strikeout 19.6% of the time. This year, though things could still change as he gets more at-bats, Torres is slugging .536 on fastballs. They’re only putting him away 12.9% of the time he gets in a two-strike hole.

Hunting fastballs is an effective strategy for most hitters, but on an even more simplistic level, so is hitting pitches that are meant to be hit. First-year hitting coach Dillon Lawson showed up to his new job with the catchphrase “Hit strikes hard”. Torres appears to have taken that to heart. According to Baseball-Savant, in three key areas of the strike zone — middle-up, middle-down and up-and-in — Torres is hitting the ball hard at a significantly higher rate than he was last year.

Hard contact is particularly damaging when it’s in the air. Every stadium can hold a well-struck grounder, very few will contain an airborne missile. For the last two seasons — the ones Torres would like to forget — he ran a ground ball rate north of 40%. This year, it’s down to 35.2% so far, with fly balls getting above 40% for the first time since 2019. As Rangers’ salty manager Chris Woodward can attest to, sometimes getting the ball in the air at Yankee Stadium leads to “Little League home runs.” Whether they go 320 or 420 feet, a home run is a home run, and Torres is already more than halfway to his home run total from last year.

The other adjustment Torres has made in the season’s first month is swinging more often. His swing percentage has shot up to 76.2%, nearly identical to the 76.3% he had when swatting 38 homers in 2019. This could be a sign that Torres isn’t overthinking things at the plate, a welcome sign for someone who has spoken openly about the mental strife he’s endured.

“First of all, I feel really good,” Torres told reporters last week. “I mean, my swing has gotten better and better. And I’m working hard every day to be the way I want to be. But so far, so good. I think confidence is back and that is the most important thing for me.”

That renewed confidence could also wind up being one of the most important things for the Yankees, a team that, at 27-9, has absolutely been the way they want to be.


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Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’



Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’

Kevin O’Connell was an NFL quarterback and an offensive assistant in the league for seven years before being named head coach of the Vikings. But he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.

“( want to) be visible to the defense, let them know that I’m learning their side of the ball just as much as they are,” the first-year head coach said Wednesday during the first week of organized team activities. ”I can complement them on detailed things they can do within our coverages, within a pressure, how we stop the run, and they can look at me as not just an offensive head coach.”

O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who came from the defensive side of the ball and in eight seasons gave his offensive coordinator lots of leeway. O’Connell, who turns 37 next Wednesday, said it’s “really important” to him for defensive players and those on special teams to know he’s also invested in those aspects of the game.

With that in mind, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was asked if he thinks of O’Connell as more than just an offensive coach.

“He definitely knows what’s going on, but I don’t think he can fairly say that,” Kendricks said with a laugh. “He’s definitely an offensive coach. He definitely wants to light us up on defense, but that’s only going to get us better on defense.”

Kendricks said O’Connell can be valuable working with the defense.

“I notice from him watching film and him going over film on the defensive side of things, he kind of goes over what the offense’s mindset or mind frame is as he’s talking about the defense,” Kendricks said.


From Wednesday through Friday, the Vikings are hosting a diversity coaching summit at the TCO Performance Center. It is being attended by 12 young coaches, 11 from colleges, with the intention being to groom them for possible future NFL jobs.

“It’s really a chance for us to get exposed to them from the standpoint of how do they carry themselves?” said Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine, who is heading the summit. “We’re going to do mock interviews, film everything and give them feedback on it. They get a chance to be in our meetings. We’ll talk to them as well (about) the NFL culture and expectations.”

Pettine wanted to have such a summit when he Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2019-2020 but the coronavirus pandemic hit and then he was fired from his job.

Among the 12 invitees is one woman, Roseanna Smith, director of football operations/running backs coach at Division III Oberlin (Ohio) College.


— The Vikings’ top three draft picks all could end up starting but O’Connell is not rushing anything. First-round selection Lewis Cine has been working behind Camryn Bynum at safety, second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. has been sidelined as the cornerback recovers from groin surgery and second-rounder Ed Ingram is getting reserve snaps at guard. O’Connell said the Vikings have a “teaching progression” for rookies but they “can earn” spots for sure.

— O’Connell has been impressed with how second-quarterback Kellen Mond has looked during offseason drills. “Kellen’s having a good spring so far, working hard, digesting the system,” O’Connell said. During Tuesday’s second session of OTAs,  O’Connell said Mond “made a couple of checks at the line of scrimmage that he wasn’t prepared play-by-play for” but that he “instinctively” adjusted.

— Tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, did some work on the field Tuesday but O’Connell said the Vikings will continue to bring him back slowly. “He’s going to be a major part of what we do,” O’Connell said. “It’s just making sure that we’re doing it in a really responsible way.”

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