Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Jimenez and bench coach George Lombard reported their symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, just before the Tigers began a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
With Jimenez and Lombard locked in their hotel rooms across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the Tigers and Pirates played all three contests without further health issues. Tigers manager AJ Hinch thought his team was in the clear upon returning to Comerica Park in Detroit, considering a four days had passed since the two-man outbreak.
On Friday, though, reliever Miguel Del Pozo joined Jimenez on the COVID-19 injured list. He will be out for at least 10 days. To replace him, the Tigers called up reliever Drew Carlton from Triple-A Toledo.
“One of the updates when Doug (Teter, athletic trainer) called me was that Del Pozo was experiencing some symptoms and wasn’t feeling well,” Hinch said Friday. “He was set to get tested today. He got tested this morning at about 8 o’clock and confirmed the positive.”
Del Pozo has a 3.38 ERA with two walks and four strikeouts over 5⅓ innings (five games) for the Tigers this season. He earned his MLB opportunity by posting a 2.63 ERA, 15 walks and 52 strikeouts over 37⅔ innings (33 games) for Triple-A Toledo.
Since being recalled Aug. 30, Del Pozo has pitched 4⅔ scoreless innings.
“It’s something that we’re paying close attention to and will continue to monitor,” Hinch said about the coronavirus. “We did have a few people test today, more so for peace of mind and also anybody that had a little bit of allergy issues. There were a couple players that tested today. All came back negative. That’s a great sign. We’ll see moving forward if we need to do more.”
Jimenez and Lombard returned to Detroit from their hotel in Pittsburgh, meaning they no longer have symptoms. As long as everything goes smoothly, Jimenez and Lombard will be eligible to return to the team Sept. 16 — 10 days after their positive tests.
“There will be some further testing as they get closer to the 10-day mark,” Hinch said. “They’re both feeling fine. George participated on our advanced meeting today via Zoom, along with the guys that were close contacts. … It’s the first time I’ve ever done a dual advanced meeting. We sent plenty of love to the direction of those guys.”
Back when Jimenez and Lombard tested positive, Hinch reported 100% of his players on the current roster are vaccinated.
Trammell joins staff (for now)
The Tigers remain without four members of their coaching staff: Lombard, pitching coach Chris Fetter, quality control coach Josh Paul and bullpen catcher Jeremy Carroll. Fetter, Paul and Carroll did not test positive for COVID-19, but they were considered close contacts to Jimenez and Lombard.
Needing reinforcements upon returning to Comerica Park, the Tigers called Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, who was at Wednesday’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown. He will handle the bench coach duties for the three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays from Friday through Sunday.
“We searched long and hard to replace Lombard and Paul on the bench,” Hinch said. “We went to the Hall of Fame and said, ‘Alan Trammell, come on down to the dugout again.’ It’s nice to have him as a resource. He will help with a variety of things.”
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Trammell, 63, played for the Tigers from 1977-96, winning the 1984 World Series and picking up 2,365 hits across his 20-year MLB career. He managed Detroit from 2003-05, along with three games as an interim for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014, before becoming a special assistant to Tigers general manager Al Avila.
“It’ll be a little awkward bossing Tram around in the dugout, but I’ll do my best,” Hinch said. “I’ll go back to 2003 when he used to yell at me a little bit behind the scenes and return the favor.”
Hinch played for Trammell in 2003 as the Tigers’ catcher for 27 games. That year, Hinch hit .203 with three home runs, 11 RBIs, three walks and 18 strikeouts. He played 350 games across seven years in the big leagues, working primarily as a backup catcher.
“Eighteen years is a long time to carry that burden,” Hinch said. “Payback is today.”
From Erie to Detroit
During Wednesday’s series finale with the Pirates, reliever Kyle Funkhouser served as the team’s second bullpen catcher. That’s when the Tigers knew they needed to find a replacement for Carroll, who is away from the team because of contact tracing.
“Twice in the last two games, I’ve tried to get two guys up (in the bullpen) at the same time,” Hinch said. “It’s pretty tricky.”
Filling the void is Jon Rosoff, a 26-year-old catcher for Double-A Erie. He is hitting .189 between Triple-A Toledo (10 games) and Erie (38 games) this season. With prospect Dillon Dingler starting at catcher for the SeaWolves, the Tigers decided to bring Rosoff aboard as an extra bullpen catcher.
“He will be a team employee for the weekend and not a Double-A catcher,” Hinch said. “Great story for him with his time in the military and what he brings. (Erie manager) Arnie Beyeler raved about him, so it’s nice to reward him with a weekend in the big leagues. He’s doing us a great service.”
Tim Remes is the other active bullpen catcher.
Manning has ‘big bruise’
Right-hander Matt Manning departed from Wednesday’s start with a left knee contusion after completing three innings. The 23-year-old was hit in the knee with a line drive from Colin Moran on the final pitch of the third.
“He’s sore,” Hinch said. “He’s got a big bruise. He had quite an egg on his leg, inside his knee, after it happened. But he looks to be moving around fine. He’s going to play catch and do everything. I think he’ll be sore for a few days. He’s still scheduled to start Wednesday.”
Manning has a 6.14 ERA with 21 walks and 39 strikeouts over 66 innings in 14 starts.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.