Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter was looking forward to his first Opening Day in the Major Leagues, but he will have to watch from afar. The first-year coach is in isolation after receiving a positive test for COVID-19 on Sunday night, manager A.J. Hinch announced Monday morning.
The Tigers have put additional coaches in camp out of an abundance of caution while they conduct contact tracing and testing, Hinch said. Triple-A Toledo pitching coach Doug Bochtler will join the staff for Monday’s game against the Yankees, while other coaches will mix and match. First-base coach Ramon Santiago will move to third base for Monday’s game in place of Chip Hale, while bench coach George Lombard will reprise his old Dodgers role as first-base coach.
“Moreso just being proactive and making sure that everything is good to go,” Hinch said. “No one else — player, staff — has been impacted or affected by this, but we will be without [Fetter] for the foreseeable future.”
Detroit will wait for contact tracing to figure out who will serve as its on-field pitching coach when the season starts. Fetter will still be able to take part in virtual meetings and plan out pitching assignments and availabilities.
Fetter, 35, played four seasons of Minor League ball at the Class A level. The Tigers hired him in the fall from the University of Michigan, where he was regarded as one of the top pitching coaches in college ball.
“I’m devastated for him,” Hinch said. “We’re going to navigate through this as a group, but also, it’s horrible for him because he’s worked tirelessly, he gets an opportunity and then something like this pops up.
“And he’s done nothing wrong. He was literally [traveling only] hotel-field, a couple road trips. He’s arguably the best at the mask [wearing] and is one of the safest people in our entire organization, so I’m heartbroken for him that an opportunity could be missed here.”
Fetter’s positive test comes just more than a week after Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull was pulled out of camp due to COVID-19 protocols. The right-hander remains away from the complex while awaiting clearance to return. He’ll open the season on the injured list and miss at least the first few series of the season, Hinch said.
The Tigers are currently working on making COVID-19 vaccines available to players and staff, according to Hinch. The vaccines will be available in Michigan to anyone age 16 and older beginning April 5, and they are currently available to those to work at a physical job site in the city of Detroit.
“The various shots that are going to become available in Michigan is a good sign for us and a good sign for the state of Michigan,” Hinch said.
The decision whether to take the vaccine will be personal, Hinch said, but he’s hoping it’s a path out of the pandemic and back to a level of normalcy. Hinch contracted COVID-19 last year and plans to receive the vaccine.
“The hardest part of COVID for me has been the isolation from the rest of the world,” he said, “but also, you can do nothing wrong and still contract it. You can do everything right and still somehow come up with the virus, and it’s scary. If the vaccine helps and we as leaders can help instill some confidence, then obviously, I feel like we have that obligation as public figures.”