PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan)- MLB Network Analyst Sean Casey joined “The Cook and Poni Show” on Thursday to preview the second half of the 2014 season and what should be a great finish in the National League Central.

The Pirates will open the second half Friday night against the Colorado Rockies in fourth place just 3.5 games behind the front-running Milwaukee Brewers. Casey thinks the Pirates are very much in the mix to win the division.

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“I really think they can,” Casey said. “I really think this is a good ball club and that offense is just going to get better and better.”

Casey also points out that the Pirates could benefit most from getting a Francisco Liriano and a healthy Gerrit Cole back as two real front line arms as long as they can get close to what they did last year from them.

“The Central is wide open. Cincinnati has made a run a little bit, St. Louis is catching Milwaukee. Milwaukee is coming back to Earth a little bit and it’s starting to get jumbled up a bit,” Casey said. “With the Buccos only being 3.5 back at the break, it should be an awesome, wild second half just like last year.”

Casey still thinks the St. Louis Cardinals are the team to beat in the division, but it will be a four-horse race to the very end.

Casey also talked to the All-Star Game and seeing the tribute to Derek Jeter. Hhought that Major League Baseball did it right. He says Jeter played the game right and was a class act all the way. He thinks that with Anaheim’s Mike Trout winning the All-Star MVP it was a passing of the guard to another young great player in the game that could be the next face of baseball.

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He says that honor could go also to Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, who he had a chance to interview during the All-Star festivities and he continues to impress.

“When you look at superstar players, you look at guys who don’t give pitches away. This guy doesn’t give you one pitch. There is no breathing room. When you face Andrew McCutchen, you are in for a dog fight,” Casey said. “He has become maybe the best player in the National League and one of the best players in the game. What he does defensively and what he can do on the bases, he can beat you in so many ways. He has power to all fields, right center, left center, he hits for average. I mean this guy is the total package.”

Casey also talked about the struggles with throwing from Pedro Alvarez. He says it can become a real mental thing and the only way to overcome it is to take extra throws.

So, we know Casey likes the Cardinals to win the National League Central, but does he like them to win the National League pennant?

Nope. He says the Los Angeles Dodgers have way too much out there not to think they are the team to beat. He likes Oakland in the American League, but won’t count out the Detroit Tigers or Anaheim Angles.

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