“I apologize for being a liar.” (NC Dinos head coach Kang In-hwon)
Every day, his return date is pushed back. NC Dinos ace Eric Peddy 안전놀이터(30) has had his start postponed yet again.
“He showed some discomfort and anxiety after training today,” NC manager Kang Myung-ho (51) said at a press conference after the team’s 7-3 win in Game 2 of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Semifinals at SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea. “I think Game 3 (on the 25th) will be difficult. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Kang added: “(Pedi) won’t play at all in the third round. We’ll see tomorrow (24th) and the day after (25th), and his doctor is important,” Kang said, adding, “Regardless of today’s game, we talked about a hospital checkup after training, and it happened.”
NC won both the first and second games of the semifinals. In Game 1, starter Shin Min-hyuk, who faced foreign pitcher Roenis Elias, pitched 5⅔ innings of four-hit ball with one strikeout to even the score. In addition, a two-run homer by pinch-hitter Kim Sung-wook in the eighth inning and two stolen bases in the top of the ninth gave NC a thrilling 4-3 victory.
NC players wildly congratulate Kim Hyung-jun after his home run in the top of the eighth inning during the second game of the 2023 KBO semifinals at SSG Landers Field in Incheon, South Korea, on Nov. 23.
In game two, the team scored three runs in the first inning against veteran Kim Kwang-hyun and added a run in the second to take an early lead. NC gave up back-to-back home runs to Han Yoo-seom in the fourth and sixth innings to cut the deficit to 4-3, but in the top of the eighth, Kim Hyung-joon’s wedge solo shot was followed by RBI singles from Son As-seob and Park Gun-woo to score three runs and put the game out of reach.
After the game, NC was full of hope until Kang opened his mouth. They had won both games against SSG’s one-two punch of Elias and Kim Kwang-hyun with their two domestic starters Shin Min-hyuk and Song Myung-ki. In addition, Pedi was scheduled to pitch in Game 3. In an interview before the start of Game 2, Coach Kang said, “There’s nothing to delay now, so (Pedi) will definitely play in Game 3. He has his own anxiety, but I don’t think he’s procrastinating anymore,” Kang said, adding, “(Having an ace) definitely helps. I’m worried about his injury, but he’s a big part of our team and I’m glad he’s here.”
For NC, it was a no-brainer that Peddie was going to be in the lineup. In 30 games and 180⅓ innings pitched this season, Peddy went 20-6 with a 2.00 ERA and 209 strikeouts. He led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, becoming the first foreigner to win the pitching triple crown in 12 years and the first since KIA’s Yoon Seok-min in 2011. He also became only the fifth player in history to record 20 wins and 200 strikeouts, and the first in 37 years since Hae-tae Sun Dong-yeol (24 wins, 214 strikeouts) in 1986. For his performance, Pedi was named the winner of the 10th annual Choi Dong-won Award, and he is also a favorite to win the Golden Glove for pitching and the regular season MVP award.
However, in the final game of the regular season, Peddie suffered an unfortunate injury. As NC continued to battle for third place until the end of the season, Pedi took the mound against KIA in Gwangju on April 16. After throwing 5⅔ innings of three-hit ball, striking out five and walking none, Peddie was hit in the right forearm with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning by Go Jong-wook’s single. He remained on the mound and was replaced by Kim Young-gyu. He was diagnosed with a simple contusion of the right forearm after being examined, but was removed from the roster for the wild-card game on April 19.
“I think he’s getting better day by day, and he’s better today than he was yesterday,” Kang said of Pedi’s condition after the Wild Card Decider. As if to prove it, Pedi was on the roster for the semi-playoffs and was waiting to start. However, it was Shin Min-hyuk who started the first game, not Pedi. This was because Pedi was not fully fit. “He pitched in the bullpen today (Feb. 22) as a final check,” Kang said in an interview before the start of Game 1, “and we’ll decide (his pitching schedule) after receiving a report on his condition.”
However, NC chose Song Myung-ki, not Pedi, to start Game 2. “He threw 19 pitches in the bullpen, and he’s about 90% recovered,” Kang explained after the first game. He said, “I told him that I have anxiety, so I think the second game will be difficult,” and said, “I will watch his recovery and see if he can pitch.” That’s when the anxiety started to set in. Peddie did pre-match training in both the first and second games to check his condition, but it didn’t get any easier.
Still, Kang announced that Pedi would pitch in Game 3. However, Pedi complained of discomfort in training that day and eventually went to the hospital for a checkup. The diagnosis was “simple impingement syndrome. However, due to the player’s own anxiety, he was unable to pitch in the third game. “I’m sorry for being a liar,” Kang said.
NC called up second starter Tanner Tully (29) to start Game 3. Tanner joined the team this season as an alternate foreign pitcher and formed a one-two punch with Pedi, starting 11 games and going 5-2 with a 2.92 ERA. He had eight quality starts (6+ innings pitched, 3 earned runs allowed or less), showing his reliability. However, he struggled in Game 1 of the wild-card decider against Doosan, giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings.
Pedi, who continues to inadvertently call manager Kang Myung-ho a “liar,” was still undecided after Game 3. With two games in hand and a playoff berth on the line, the loss of their ace is devastating.