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Next stop: Tokyo

Next stop: Tokyo

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The wheels are expected to be up on the Red Sox's team charter a little after 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday. There will be a brief stop in Chicago for fuel, and after that, a long flight to Tokyo, where the Sox officially open their 2008 season on March 25 against the Oakland Athletics.

In all, the Sox will be on the plane for about 17 hours. By the time the team lands at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, it will be about midnight on Thursday.

In other words, despite the fact that Sox are leaving on Wednesday evening, Thursday will just be turning into Friday when they land. Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. So what will the Red Sox do to pass the time?

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The obvious answer would be sleep, but the team's medical and training staff has advised against that.

"I planned on sleeping, but they want us to stay awake. They want us to sleep for the first two or three hours and stay awake the rest of the time," said Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "Normally I would just hop on the plane and would sleep the whole time. Somehow I'll manage to stay awake. It will be tough, because I could go on a plane fully rested, go on there, get relaxed and go right to sleep. It will be a challenge for me to stay awake."

There is a method to the madness.

Team internist Dr. Larry Ronan recently held a meeting with all the players, explaining the situation.

"We want to get on their eating and sleeping pattern as quick as we can," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We'll stay [hydrated]."

What will players do in lieu of sleep?

"Watch a couple of movies, play cribbage, play [Texas] hold 'em, something like that," said Ellsbury.

Francona has been boasting for weeks about taking everyone's money in cribbage during the flight.

"I even told my daughter to bring her money," said Francona.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, with the help of his iPod, hopes to get caught up on some viewing.

"I'll watch movies on it, or 'Prison Break' or something," said Pedroia.

Pedroia won't read, because he said that will make him tired.

"I'll talk baseball with [Alex Cora] the entire trip," quipped Pedroia.

Sox designated hitter David Ortiz plans on being comfortable.

"It'll be crazy, but you've got to do what you've got to do," said Big Papi. "We'll be flying for 18 hours in one day. I'll bring my pajamas."

The Red Sox, who normally wear sports coats and ties for road trips, will have a casual dress code for this one.

Reliever Manny Delcarmen will have his 6-month-old son on board.

"I'm not too worried about it, because it's our charter flight and you can actually get up and walk around," said Delcarmen. "If he starts crying, you can get up and walk around with him."

Several players on the trip have been on such lengthy journeys. Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew, Julio Lugo, Curt Schilling and Bryan Corey are among the players who have been to Japan before. Ramirez has flown to Brazil. Pedroia has been to Australia.

As best they can, the Sox will try to sit back and enjoy the flight.

"Watch movies, read a book and go to sleep," Tim Wakefield said of his plans.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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