The ace’s game plan for Game 1 of the playoffs must have been intensely curious. KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol transformed himself into a daily reporter and interviewed ace William Cuevas to find out more about the player.
Cuevas will start the first game of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Postseason against NC on April 30 at KT Wiz Park in Suwon.
Cuevas became the first foreign pitcher to succeed as a replacement for Bo Schuler in June. After winning the 2021 title, he left the team last year after just two games due to injury, but with an upgraded performance, he became the third pitcher in KBO history with an undefeated winning percentage (12 wins) after Oh Bong-ok (13 wins) in 1992 and Kim Hyun-wook (10 wins) in 2002. A first for a foreign player. Coach Lee Kang-cheol credited Cuevas with leading the team from last place to second place.
“I’ve been waiting a lot,” Cuevas said at the final training session for the playoffs at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on Sept. 29. I’ve only had two weeks off, but it feels like almost a month. I can’t hide my excitement for the game,” he said. “I’m looking forward to throwing in a stadium full of fans. I don’t remember any of my starts being sold out. I’m looking forward to seeing all the fans come in,” he said ahead of Game 1.
Cuevas’ opponent on the 30th will be fourth-place NC, which has secured a playoff spot with a four-game winning streak. After taking the wild-card deciding game against Doosan in one game, NC pulled off an upset in the semifinals, sweeping third-place SSG in three games. The three-game semifinals gave NC a honeyed four-day break, which allowed them to start Eric Peddie in Game 1 of the playoffs after he was injured in the season finale when he was hit in the arm by a pitch. Peddy is a monster foreign pitcher who went 20-0 with 200 strikeouts this year.
“I didn’t see much of a difference in the NCs, but I did see guys getting a little more adrenaline and getting the most out of themselves,” Cuevas said, “I don’t mind Pedi pitching. I’m not fighting the pitcher. I did well in the regular season. We’re playing fall baseball because the whole team did well, so we have to fight the whole team, not a specific player. I’m looking forward to playing against a high-level team.”
At this time, KT coach Lee Kang-cheol, who was watching the players train, approached Cuevas, who was being interviewed by the press, and asked him a question. He was curious about the ace’s mindset for Game 1, so he transformed into a daily reporter and asked a variety of questions.
The first question was, “How are you feeling?” Cuevas confidently replied, “1000%,” to which Lee said, “Good,” and laughed. Cuevas continued, “I’m more confident about tomorrow’s game because I’m not hurting right now. I don’t have any conditioning problems. So I think I can show a better game,” he added.
The next question from reporter Lee Kang-chul was, “How do you stop the NC’s No. 1, 2, and 3 hitters (Son Ah-seop, Park Min-woo, and Park Gun-woo), who are batting 1, 2, and 3 respectively?” “I think they’ll be more afraid of me because they know I’m the best pitcher in the KBO,” Cuevas said with confidence. Lee liked the ace’s confident answer, which was accompanied by a satisfied smile.
Lee’s questions continued. “NC Martin has improved a lot, how do you deal with him, he seems to be a little weak with his high fastball,” Cuevas said, “No problem at all. If I say it here, I’m exposing my power, so I’ll show you tomorrow,” he smiled.
“I know you’re a legendary player in Korea. I don’t know how many times he’s been asked questions by reporters in his 32-year career, so he knows what questions to ask. He’s a good journalist. I gave him a thumbs up and said, “You’re a good journalist. You’re very smart and you’re a good person.” He thanked me in English and said, “I’m embarrassed,” and smiled wryly.
There were also some heartwarming exchanges between the priests. “I’m glad you’re here. It’s good that you’re so serious, unlike before,” to which Cuevas replied, “It gives me confidence that the coach believes in me. My seriousness continues to help me in the game, and I will continue to show it in the future,” Cuevas said.
“There’s no tomorrow in fall baseball,” said Cuevas, who led the team to the title two years ago as an ace. There’s no room for mistakes,” he said. “I’m going to be a little more serious and focused on the mound. One mistake can send me home again,” he said, vowing to win Game 1.