PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — Pirates manager Clint Hurdle joined Vinnie & Cook on Friday with his team just hours away from starting a crucial three-game weekend series against the Reds in Cincinnati. Below is some of what Hurdle had to say.

On what makes this team capable of finishing strong:

“There’s another layer of maturity and experience on our in-house men. There is added layers of experience on the men that we’ve brought in externally. There’s also some newness to the guys that are here for the first time that really don’t have a connection to the past. So it’s a melting pot of different personalities.

On saying that he was looking for 95 wins this season during spring training:

“I said it’d take 95 wins. That’s going to guarantee you a spot in the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to look people in the eye and tell them what you believe, and not drop your head, and not give a flip about whether people laugh or not.”

On the durability of the pitching staff:

“I gotta believe AJ being down is going to be a blessing in disguise. He got to hit a refresh button, Liriano missed the first month of the season, so he’s in a different place than he’s ever been. I think this little hiccup with Jeff Locke, we were very encouraged by his bullpen session last night, and I think this kid’s going to have every chance to pick up where he left off. Morton started late, so he’s fresh — Cole, the same way. We’re going to get to a point where, him and Locke, maybe the innings we’ll keep an eye on, but there’s no shutting down. There’s no backing away. There’s depth like there has never been. And the bullpen, people always say they can’t continue. You know what? I don’t know if they can or not. If they come close, it’s going to be very good. If they fall off 10 percent, it’s going to be very good. They mix and match so well. The different skill sets, the versatility, we have five guys that can pitch multiple innings. We’re in a good place there.”

On the performance of the offense:

“We’ve got four positions that have probably not matched expectations. There’s more at first base, there’s more at right field, there’s more from second base, I believe there’s more from shortstop. They haven’t performed at the level they’ve performed in the past and we’re confident that they’ll do that.”

On playing hardball with the Reds:

“I’m all for it. We’re not going to back down. We’re not going to back away. Don’t bark if you’re not going to bite. And we’re in a position now where we can bite. We’re not going to just talk about doing things. We’ve been able to show other people we’re a team of action. We can play the game, we get after it, and we play it the right away. So yeah, it’s going to be exciting to start right here tonight. No better place better to get it going.”

On winning over the fans after two second-half collapses:

“Love is the most powerful emotion in the world, and it’s a right emotion. And when you love and you don’t feel that you get loved back or you get scorned, you’re vulnerable. But boy, what a feeling when you love and it all plays out right. There’s nothing better in the world. I encourage all the Bucs fans that we need your support. For the ones that don’t want to go, we’ll just keep playing ball, and keep winning games, and get in a position where they’ll find a little room on this wagon.”

The interview can be heard here:

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