Tigers coach Fetter back after COVID illness

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers get a critical part of their pitching staff back in time for a big early test, even if he won’t throw a pitch on their upcoming road trip. Pitching coach Chris Fetter has been cleared to rejoin the Tigers this weekend as they begin a 10-game trip to Cleveland, Houston and Oakland. The Tigers announced the news on Thursday morning.

“He’s feeling better. He’s symptom-free,” manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday.

Fetter missed the Tigers’ season-opening homestand after testing positive for COVID-19 late in Spring Training. He was able to work remotely and sit in on virtual meetings, but assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves did the dugout work and mound visits, while Triple-A Toledo pitching coach Doug Bochtler helped fill in.

“He’s with us via Zoom,” reliever Gregory Soto said Wednesday. “Before the first game of series, we have some sort of a meeting, and he is with us via Zoom. He explains a lot of things to us. He gives us some reports on where we are progressing.”

The Tigers hired the 35-year-old Fetter from the University of Michigan last fall to work with Hinch, who introduced him to coaching in the San Diego Padres organization. Fetter will bring his pitching philosophies to a young staff that includes top prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal and has fellow prospect Matt Manning waiting in the wings.

Fetter’s presence and involvement in the games should make a difference as Detroit tries to navigate a difficult stretch. Besides 10 road games against teams that made the American League playoffs last year, the Tigers also don’t have an off-day until after the trip. Friday’s series opener in Cleveland begins a stretch of 23 games in 24 days across six cities in three time zones.

The stretch could lead the Tigers to a six-man rotation once Spencer Turnbull is ready to return from the injured list. Turnbull was held out of Spring Training for the final two weeks due to COVID protocols, and he has been ramping up his pitching work in Lakeland, Fla., since being cleared last week. He’s expected to join the alternate training site in Toledo this weekend or early next week.

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