Dinos eliminated in KBO postseason with best pitcher out of action

SUWON, South Korea, After bowing out of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postseason Sunday, the NC Dinos were left with "what if" questions.

What if their best starter, Erick Fedde, had been able to start deciding Game 5 against the KT Wiz on Sunday? What if Fedde, who was dealing with shoulder fatigue, had been able to pitch in relief at least?

Fedde wasn't just the Dinos' No. 1 starter in the regular season. He was the best pitcher in the KBO, period. He won the pitching Triple Crown by leading the KBO with 20 wins, 209 strikeouts and a 2.00 ERA. He is the first foreign pitcher to accomplish that feat.

However, Fedde remained glued to the bench as the Dinos lost to the Wiz 3-2 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, south of Seoul, on Sunday. Dinos manager Kang In-kwon had said prior to the game that Fedde would be available to pitch in relief, but that didn't materialize.

The Wiz are off to the Korean Series, and the Dinos are going home.

"He tried to get ready but he said his body still felt heavy. So that was that," Kang said after the loss.

Fedde ended up pitching in only one game this postseason. And it was a dominant one at that, which only adds to the frustration for the Dinos and their fan base that, if Fedde had been able to pitch at least once more in this series, it could have gone in their favor.

Fedde struck out 12 in six innings as the Dinos took the first game 9-5 on Monday. And he would have been in line to start Sunday on regular rest. And the top-of-the-rotation type pitchers like Fedde get paid exactly for games like this, as a win on Sunday would have sent the Dinos to the Korean Series.

And yet, the Dinos never got to use Fedde again.

NC Dinos pitcher Erick Fedde (L) high-fives a teammate during Game 4 of the second round in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason against the KT Wiz at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, on Nov. 3, 2023.

In his final regular season start on Oct. 16, Fedde was struck in the right forearm by a batted ball. The Dinos' first postseason game was Oct. 19, and he would not have been available for that game anyway because of the quick turnaround.

The Dinos won that game, a wild card showdown against the Doosan Bears, by 14-9 and advanced to the next round against the SSG Landers. That series began Oct. 22, but Fedde was still not ready.

And before Game 2 against the Landers on Oct. 23, Kang confidently announced Fedde would take the ball for Game 3 two days later, on Oct. 25. It would be nine days after Fedde's final regular season outing, and Kang said the team couldn't afford to wait for their top starter much longer.

However, immediately after Game 2, Kang announced Fedde wouldn't be able to pitch in Game 3 because of lingering arm discomfort.

The Dinos won Game 3 without Fedde to complete the three-game sweep of the Landers. More importantly, the Dinos earned themselves an additional four days off before the start of the next series, against the Wiz.

With plenty of rest, Fedde finally got the ball for Game 1 against the Wiz on Monday. He showed no ill effects from his arm issues or the extended layoff in his 12-strikeout performance.

NC Dinos pitcher Erick Fedde smiles in the dugout during Game 1 of the second round in the Korea Baseball Organization postseason against the KT Wiz at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Oct. 30, 2023.

But then the mysterious shoulder fatigue came up. After the Dinos lost Game 4 on Friday to allow the Wiz to even up the series at two games apiece, it seemed safe to assume Kang would tap Fedde to try to save the Dinos' season in Game 5.

But in his post-game press conference Friday, Kang said he would have to check Fedde's health further and wait until Saturday morning to settle on his Game 5 starter.

Kang went with Shin Min-hyeok, who did an admirable job holding the Wiz to two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. But with the Dinos' bats having gone cold over the past two games, the margin of error was minimal.

Except for his official press conference after Game 1, Fedde declined to speak to the media during the entire postseason. At that presser, Fedde said he "felt strong" after the six-inning outing, but he never pitched again.

Fedde's absence isn't the sole reason that the Dinos couldn't finish off the Wiz after winning the first two games of this series. But there's little doubt that he could have made a difference Sunday.

Fedde just might have pitched his last game for the Dinos. The former Washington Nationals starter could attract some suitors from Major League Baseball following his great season in the KBO.

Source: Yonhap News Agency