Here's when Detroit Tigers expect pitching coach Chris Fetter (COVID-19) to return

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter meets with the entire pitching staff before the beginning of every series. Amid his first year in the majors, the 35-year-old shares a report on what to expect from the opponent.

Fetter, who joined the team after serving as Michigan baseball pitching coach for three seasons, has completed these tasks over Zoom video calls.

Two days before the Tigers left their spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida, Fetter tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine. He has missed the first two series' of the regular season.

But Fetter, the mastermind behind the Tigers' arms, is nearing his return to in-person activities.

"He's feeling better," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Wednesday. "He's symptom free. He's running through the protocols that MLB has mandated for all personnel that tests positive. We're very optimistic that he's going to be able to join us soon, maybe as early as next series."

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Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter, left, talks with assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves during spring training Feb. 18, 2021, in Lakeland, Florida.
Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter, left, talks with assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves during spring training Feb. 18, 2021, in Lakeland, Florida.

The Tigers start a 10-game road trip Friday with three matchups against Cleveland, visit Houston for three games and play four games against Oakland.

If all goes as planned, Fetter will return for Friday's series opener in Cleveland at Progressive Field. Despite Thursday's off day, the Tigers plan to keep the rotation intact using Julio Teheran (Friday), Tarik Skubal (Saturday), Jose Urena (Sunday), Casey Mize (Monday) and Matthew Boyd (Tuesday).

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Goodbye to Lakeland

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull is pitching a final bullpen session at the spring training facility in Lakeland before he is sent to the alternate training site at Fifth Third Field in Toledo. Toward the end of camp, Turnbull was forced to leave the team for COVID-19 protocols and enter quarantine.

"I think he's going to throw one more bullpen down there," Hinch said, "and then transition to the alt site for his next outing, which would be four or five days for now."

Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull throws live batting practice Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Fla.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull throws live batting practice Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021 on the Tiger Town practice fields in Lakeland, Fla.

Turnbull could not access the complex until he was cleared to return to the team's facilities just before Opening Day.

But that didn't mean the 28-year-old could immediately rejoin the Tigers' starting rotation. Since Turnbull was cleared, he pitched numerous bullpens and recently completed a three-inning simulated game against players in minor-league spring training, such as Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene.

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Turnbull's next destination is Toledo, putting him one step closer to Comerica Park.

"He doesn't have to go through as much of the same protocols, but he has to go through a transfer," Hinch said. "It's almost like the transfer portal. It's not the same as college, but you have to transfer him over, and then we'll get him up and running."

Unclaimed on waivers

Outfielder Christin Stewart cleared waivers Tuesday and was sent to Toledo ahead of the Triple-A season in early May. He was designated for assignment on Opening Day to make room for left-hander Derek Holland.

A former first-round pick (34th overall, 2015), Stewart has a .225 batting average, 15 homers and 59 RBIs — with 49 walks to 146 strikeouts — across 157 games in parts of three seasons. In 2020, he hit .167 with five walks and 30 strikeouts in 36 games.

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With a jam-packed outfield, considering the additions of Robbie Grossman, Nomar Mazara and Akil Baddoo, the 27-year-old Stewart was a long shot to make the 26-man roster out of spring training. His poor production didn't help his case: 3-for-18 (.167) with two RBIs, zero walks and 10 strikeouts.

By going unclaimed on waivers, Stewart remains with the organization.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers should be getting pitching coach Chris Fetter back soon