By KEVIN JAKAHI
San Francisco Giants bench coach Kainoa Correa has had a lot of practice with Major League Baseball safety protocols and social distancing for the coronavirus pandemic.
He lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., home of the Giants spring training camp, where resident Giants have been working out for over a month.
MLB officially announced that spring training will start July 1 and a 60-game schedule will begin July 23 or 24.
Correa will fly to San Francisco on Monday to kick off his first year with the new-look Giants, who finished in third place in the NL West, 28 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gabe Kapler, who was fired by the Philadelphia Phillies, takes over as manager from Bruce Bochy, who retired.
The Giants also made history with the hire of assistant coach Alyssa Nakken, the first woman to serve full-time on an MLB staff.
Correa, a 2006 Waiakea graduate, even practices safety protocols at home.
“My wife (Brittany) and I have done a good job of social distancing,” he said. “I really trust the expertise and protocols the Giants have put in place. It started in Scottsdale, where we’re working with guys there.”
A few Giants live in Arizona and have been working out, including pitcher Jeff Samardzija, third baseman Evan Longoria, and shortstop Brandon Crawford.
Kean Wong, a 2013 Waiakea graduate, was claimed off waivers by the Giants from the Los Angels Angels.
The Giants are expected to release their 60-player roster for the spring training camp on Sunday.
The MLB season will open with a 30-man roster, reduced to 28 players after two weeks and then to 26 after four weeks.
The second-base job is quite crowded with candidates including returning starter Mauricio Dubon, free agent Freddy Sanchez, Yolmer Sanchez, Donovan Solano, and Wong.
At Scottsdale, the team took a COVID-19 test every other day and temperature checks multiple times during a day.
Still, the virus doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
Recently, the Philadelphia Phillies shut down their camp in Clearwater, Fla., after a dozen members tested positive for the coronavirus.
It’s not exactly the way Correa intended to start with the Giants, who have neck cramps having to look up at the Dodgers, the seven-time NL West champs.
The Dodgers, who have the second highest payroll at $202,793,500, are the NL version of the Yankees.
When L.A. whiffs on free agents like Matt Kemp, it’ll simply empty its farm system and trade for another star like Mookie Betts.
“With the condensed schedule, I think it’ll be like March Madness. Every game will matter,” Correa said. “I would have loved to have my first season be more conventional with a 162-game schedule. If anyone gets hot, there’s a greater chance of parity.
“The Dodgers are a really dynamic ballclub. They have a lot of really good options. One key to beating them is matching up, to mix and match with lineups and use your bench wisely. You have to maximize your advantages instead of a set nine vs. nine lineup.”
Correa can take a rest for now and enjoy being a new dad to daughter Avery, who incidentally wasn’t named after former Waiakea catcher Avery Kagawa.
“He likes to think that,” Correa joked.
She’ll turn 9 months old soon and start walking on her own, and pretty soon she’ll be able to say, “Play ball.”