Pittsburgh — COVID-19 has jumped up and bit the Tigers.
Reliever Joe Jimenez and bench coach George Lombard both tested positive for the virus, even though both have been vaccinated. Both felt symptoms of the virus Sunday night.
Additionally, pitching coach Chris Fetter, quality control coach Josh Paul and bullpen catcher Jeremy Carroll will be away from the team after being cited in contact tracing.
“We’ve had an array of tests around our team,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Contact tracing and MLB protocols, all of those were negative. But as a result of contact tracing, we are going to lose those three guys while they’re in quarantine.”
Both Jimenez and Lombard will be quarantined for at least 10 days. Hinch said Fetter, Paul and Carroll will not be with the team for the series in Pittsburgh or the first series back at Comerica Park over the weekend.
All five were sent back to the team hotel.
“There are varying degrees of protocol,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of their health first and then worry about the return to play and coach.”
The positive tests come as a surprise, because the Tigers are 100% vaccinated. They were the first team in baseball to reach the 85% vaccination rate and were able to loosen some of COVID protocol restrictions.
“We are very comfortable with the testing that we’ve done,” Hinch said. “We’ve handled this internally about as well as you can. We don’t have any fear. There are no more symptoms floating around. Our players have been incredible. We had 100% player participation in the COVID vaccine. We’ve been really good about it and the organization has been terrific about this.
“But we see it’s not perfect. Positive tests can happen.”
The Tigers are expected to call up a pitcher to replace Jimenez on Tuesday.
As for the coaching staff, bullpen coach Juan Nieves will move into the dugout and serve as pitching coach. Hinch will lean on coaches Kimera Bartee and Ramon Santiago to pick up some of Lombard’s duties.
“Are more tests coming? Yes,” Hinch said. “Are we going to pay close attention to any symptoms? Of course. But right now, we are where we’re at.”
Tigers at Pirates, PNC Park, Pittsburgh
TV/Radio: BSDet, 97.1
RHP Wily Peralta (3-3, 3.68) Tigers: His 13 starts and 66 innings have been vital to the Tigers’ rotation in the wake of the injuries to four veteran starters. His effectiveness, though, has been largely predicated on his feel for his split-change. Opponents are 5 for 63 against it, with 23 strikeouts and a 37% whiff rate. But too often he hasn’t been able to command it consistently. Leaving his fastball and slider vulnerable.
LHP Dillon Peters (0-2, 3.07), Pirates: He is expected to be activated off the injured list. He’d been out since Aug. 28 with back soreness. He’s a change-up artist, throwing it off a 90-mph four-seam. He gets a 37% swing-and-miss rate with it.