Detroit — The Tigers will not have their new pitching coach in the dugout on Opening Day on Thursday.
Manager AJ Hinch announced Monday that Chris Fetter had tested positive for COVID-19 and would be away from the team “for the foreseeable future.”
“I’m devastated for him,” Hinch said. “No. 1, we’re going to navigate through this as a group for him. But it is horrible for him. He’s worked tirelessly to get this opportunity and something like this pops up.
“And he’s done nothing wrong.”
Hinch said Fetter has been one of the safest and most conscientious followers of the protocols on the team.
“I’m heartbroken for him,” Hinch said.
Hinch also said, though while players and staff continue to be tested, nobody else has been affected.
The Tigers also are without starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull. He will start the season on the non-baseball (COVID-19) injured list. Infielder Zack Short and pitchers Bryan Garcia and Jason Foley also missed time because of protocol issues.
“We’ve had a relatively quiet camp compared to what it could have been,” Hinch said. “Obviously this is not good news at the end here. … But there have been a lot of people logging a lot hours to make sure we can come to practice every day and get these games in.”
He sited the training staff, especially Kevin Rand, as well as director of baseball operations Sam Menzin as “unspoken heroes” in the COVID-19 process.
While Fetter, in his first season on the job after coming over from the University of Michigan, still will be involved in the day-to-day workings of the pitching staff, he will be doing it via text and remote video.
In the short term, Hinch said he’s rearranged the coaching staff.
For the final exhibition games, Triple-A pitching coach Doug Bochtler will be in the dugout, along with assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves. Also, bench coach George Lombard will be coaching at first base, with Ramon Santiago moving to third. That allows third-base coach Chip Hale to work on the back fields during the games. As for the regular season, Hinch isn’t sure how the configuration will look.
“I’m going to wait and see all the logistics involved,” he said. “We will obviously press forward. Fett can work from afar. He’s already texted me some plans this morning. He will still be part of our planning.
“But we will be shifting a few responsibilities for the time being.”
Hinch said he is also hopeful the players and staff will be able to get vaccinated soon after getting back to Detroit, if they chose.
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