PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Former Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland joined the Cook and Poni Show on Friday to talk about the Pirates at the break and look ahead to the second half of the season.

“I really like what they did at the end of the first half,” Leyland said. “They were struggling for a while and they really stepped it up. You know, they could have gone into the tank. I think Clint [Hurdle] did a good job. I think some of the young kids injected some life into the ball club. Some of the young arms they got are really good and that can be a positive influence on guys. Not only can they be good for the second half, but they have a bright future. I think good things [are ahead] for the Pirates. I think they got a shot.”

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Leyland admits that might be for a Wild Card spot because the Chicago Cubs have a nice lead in the division right now.

“You know the Cubs struggled towards the end of the first half, Arrieta struggled lately, so you never know what’s going to happen,” Leyland said. “There is a lot of baseball left. I think they are definitely a playoff contender for sure. Can they catch the Cubs? That’s probably a little questionable, but I think they got a shot.”

Speaking of shots. The Pirates will get a shot in the arm this weekend in Washington DC when Gerrit Cole returns from the disabled list to start against the Nationals Saturday night.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,” Leyland said. “He is one of the best in the game in my opinion. He’s got really good stuff. I like his mound demeanor, real tough competitor, a hard-nosed guy.”

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Leyland also thinks that Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano could both rebound in the second half, which will be like adding two free agents at the deadline.

He thinks the Pirates have a lot going for them with a strong outfield, good young arms, and it’s all held together by a great manager in Clint Hurdle.

“He gets a lot of credit for being a Pittsburgher, rightfully so. He gets a lot of credit for being a motivator, rightfully so, but I don’t think Clint Hurdle get enough credit for the game manager he is,” Leyland said. “He’s the complete package. He will keep these guys going. He knows how to handle that.”

Leyland admits the Cubs are still the team to beat right now, but the Pirates have given themselves a chance with the way they finished the first half.

Listen to the full interview here, including Leyland’s thoughts on the state of Major League Baseball and the Wild Card playoffs:

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