ShareThis Page

Leyland still a fan of Pirates

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
Getty Images
Tigers manager Jim Leyland signals to the batter during a game earlier this season. The Pirates' former manager meets his old club four times this week.

After a pregame Q&A in Cleveland last week with reporters who cover his Tigers, Jim Leyland spotted an interloper from Pittsburgh.

“How 'bout them Buccos!” Leyland rumbled from behind the desk in the visiting manager's office at Progressive Field. “They're doin' good, aren't they?”

After more than 1,700 wins with four clubs over 22 seasons, three consecutive Pirates' division titles, a World Series triumph with Florida and a pair of pennants with the Tigers, Leyland remains a fan of the franchise to which he is bonded.

He provides a constant reminder of the good old days at Three Rivers Stadium more than two decades ago. Now, he is rooting for some good new days for the Buccos.

“I'm pullin' for 'em,” he said.

Except, of course, when they meet the club that pays his salary. The Tigers and Pirates play four games starting Monday, two in Detroit and two at PNC Park on Wednesday and Thursday. Leyland, who has a house in Thornburg, looks forward to returning. As always.

“That's my home,” he said. “We're gonna compete hard against 'em for four days, sleep in my own bed for a couple of days and enjoy seein' some of my friends, and move on.”

Leyland is now 68. The lines in his face are deeper, his hair and mustache have gone white. His Tigers were swept by San Francisco in the World Series, but he is ready for another run, his zest for the game “as strong as it's ever been since I came back (in 2006),” he said.

“He still has that fire and that enthusiasm and the passion for the game,” said outfielder Don Kelly, who is from Mt. Lebanon. “He still brings it every day.”

Picture this: Outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo, who joined the Tigers as a free-agent and has created spelling and pronunciation issues for his manager, revealed that Leyland has been known to join the players in a clubhouse victory dance.

“He'll bust a move,” Tuiasosopo said through a big smile. “He's awesome. He's funny. He expects us to work hard. And win.”

But about the Pirates. “Who's this left-hander they got?” Leyland wanted to know.

That would be Jeff Locke, a young starter making his presence known. Leyland acknowledged he doesn't know all the names, although McCutchen, Burnett, Walker and Martin are familiar. So is Jason Grilli, who pitched in 51 games for Leyland in 2006 and helped win a pennant. Grilli is having a monster season after assuming the Pirates' closer role.

“He's been terrific,” Leyland said.

The Pirates “are coming of age now,” he said. “Some of those younger players are getting experience under pressure situations. They're much better, no question about it. They've got some speed, they've got some power. I don't know the pitching coach (Ray Searage), but he must be a fantastic pitching coach. And (Clint Hurdle) has got the experience. He's a terrific manager.”

As for the Tigers' manager, Leyland said his immediate plan is to stick around for a while. He referenced his good friend, Tony LaRussa, who managed for 33 years “and all of a sudden (the passion) was gone,” he said.

“I like to manage the best players in the world and compete against the best players in the world,” said Leyland. “And I still have the passion for it. As long as I do, I feel good about myself. If I don't have that, I'm goin' home.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.