Photo credit: Alli Rusco/Minnesota Vikings

A look at who is trending up and down the past week in Minnesota sports, including our excitement level for the return of Vikings football and a crop of highly touted Twins players heading in different directions.

Excitement for Year 2 of Vikings new era (UP ⬆)

Minnesota began organized team activities Monday and some key returners and newcomers were in attendance. Via the photo archives, we spotted Lewis Cine, Kirk Cousins, Christian Darrisaw, Marcus Davenport, T.J. Hockenson, Alexander Mattison, Byron Murphy and K.J. Osborn, to name a handful. Our favorite takeaway from the first two days is a no-brainer: Cine is healthy. The 2022 first-round safety said nothing is being toned down for him after he missed the majority of last year due to a nasty leg fracture. He mentioned the biggest difference in first-year defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ scheme is that it will put guys in position to play to their strengths. Our interpretation: The Vikings won’t be so rigid and stuck in their ways defensively, like they seemed to be last season under Ed Donatell despite woeful stretches. Our excitement level for Minnesota in Year 2 of the Kevin O’Connell era is palpable for several reasons: 1) The roster better reflects the vision of O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, even if that means there’ll be a learning curve for younger players in key roles. 2) We think Cousins will make major strides in his second go-round operating O’Connell’s system, which features a few intriguing new weapons in tight end Josh Oliver, rookie wideout Jordan Addison and seventh-round sleeper DeWayne McBride. 3) This team still possesses star power. Danielle Hunter, Hockenson and Justin Jefferson are top-10 players at their positions. In a wide-open division, there’s no reason Minnesota can’t repeat as champs. One thing we’re not overly thrilled for is a crummy preseason slate that kicks off on the West Coast on Thursday, Aug. 10 at 9 p.m. against Seattle. The silver lining we suppose is that it’s an exhibition.

Byron Buxton, Twins designated hitter (UP ⬆)

Buck extended his career-long on-base streak to 23 games Tuesday night, and with a couple knocks – not to mention a two-run shot out of the gate – now has four multi-hit games in his last eight. Buxton is slashing .333/.429/.600 in that timeframe (since May 14) with nine runs scored and three swiped bags.

Jorge Lopez, Twins reliever (DOWN ⬇)

The month of May has not been kind to Lopez, who’s supposed to be the ace in Minnesota’s bullpen. The 2022 All-Star is dragging around a 5.40 ERA across his last 10 appearances … after not allowing a single earned run over his first 13 outings this season. Lopez started May on the wrong note, surrendering two runs on three hits, including a homer, in the seventh inning of a one-run loss to the White Sox. He walked home the decisive run in extra innings against the Dodgers on May 15 – one of three free passes in 1 2/3 frames – dropped the ball Sunday vs. the Angels, giving up consecutive doubles to spoil Pablo Lopez’s 1-1 duel with Shohei Ohtani … and again was taken deep and cost the Twins in their 4-3 loss to the Giants. Lopez has almost as many walks (6) this month as strikeouts (9). He does have this highlight, we guess.

Sonny Gray, Twins starter (UP ⬆)

Gray’s dominance is a consistent theme this season. Boy, even that is an understatement. The veteran righty leads MLB with a 1.82 ERA. He’s the top pitcher on what’s arguably baseball’s best starting staff. In 10 outings (54 1/3 IP), Gray has fanned 66 batters and walked 21. That’s 10.9 K per nine innings and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.14:1. As for his most impressive feat … Gray has yet to allow a home run! The 33-year-old hurler made five innings Tuesday look tougher than usual – he used 105 pitches – but managed six punchouts and limited the damage to two runs on six hits and a couple bases on balls. Gray is restricting opponents to a .218 average and .581 OPS. He hasn’t been taken deep since Sept. 19, 2022.

Carlos Correa, Twins shortstop (DOWN ⬇)

Correa is currently swinging .213, which is a good thing because it’s his highest average since April 24. Oh brother, that’s a painful realization. The prized re-signing of Minnesota’s offseason just doesn’t look good at the plate – and now he’s not feeling well, either. Correa, dealing with a bruised heel, wasn’t available Tuesday as the Twins took an L for the sixth time in eight games. An MRI showed inflammation. Now, this is jumping to conclusions, something we’re not fond of, but is it possible Correa also is struggling with a bruised ego? The two-time All-Star is striking out at a career-high rate of 23.4% and is 7-for-40 (.175) with runners in scoring position. Minnesota needs Correa – and his health is paramount. But the Twins also could use the talents of a shortstop raking in Triple-A, named Royce Lewis, who’ll be eligible for activation off the 60-day injured list May 30. Maybe it’s wise to let Correa get his body, and mind, right.

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