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Eye-opening, rewarding experience

Eye-opening, rewarding trip

TOKYO -- It was a trip that was both eye-opening and rewarding for the Red Sox, but also one that didn't leave much time for reflection.

From manager Terry Francona to his coaches to the players, everyone is now antsy to get back to the United States and get ready for the remaining 160 games of the season.

The first challenge will be recovering from the 10-hour flight and another massive time change. The Red Sox departed Tokyo right after Wednesday's game and flew to Los Angeles, which is 16 hours behind Japan time.

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"We throw our first pitch at 7:07 [Wednesday night], then we land at 6 [also Wednesday night]," Francona said. "I'm still trying to figure that out."

The players have been advised to sleep the first four hours of the 10-hour flight and then try to stay awake.

"The best thing we can do ... is for each person to take care of themselves, and you can either elect to be tired or not be tired," Francona said. "And then when you're tired, elect not to let it affect you. That's how it is during the year anyway."

The three exhibition games in Los Angeles give the Red Sox a chance to get their legs back under them before resuming regular-season action against the A's in Oakland on Tuesday.

"I think it's tough when you have your eating routine and your sleep schedule [affected], but it doesn't take that long to get back on track," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We have a day off in L.A., so we'll go there for our workout, play our exhibition games. Those are kind of nice. The exhibition games, they count, but they don't. This will get us back on a regular routine, so when we head back to Oakland, we'll be ready to go."

In truth, nobody really knows what to expect once they get off the plane.

"The one thing I know is that you have to just try to get back on time as soon as possible," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "It could take two days, it could take a week. The biggest thing is just trying to get the right amount of sleep, and at the right time, and not take long naps during the day. You might have to go a couple of days without getting much sleep, and then hopefully you're so tired at some point that you'll just fall asleep at 12 and get about eight hours."

Francona plans on paying special attention to how each player responds to the lengthy journey.

"The three games in L.A. won't count on our record. My concern will be keeping guys rested, healthy and ready to play," Francona said. "I think those are three things that we'll try to keep an eye on. It may not be an exact science how we do it."

Thursday's workout at Dodger Stadium will be optional.

"We'll certainly take inventory on how guys feel," Francona said. "Some guys need to move around. Some guys are going to probably feel like they don't want to move around. I don't know that anybody knows how they're going to feel until we get there. We'll be available as a staff to try to help everybody get through it and we'll use the weekend to continue to get ready. And if we need to rest people, we'll rest people. We're in a little bit of uncharted waters, because we haven't done this before. We'll do the best we can."

Returning from Japan
April records of teams returning from Japan openers
Year
Team
Record
2000
Cubs
10-17
2000
Mets
16-10
2004
Yankees
12-11
2004
Rays
7-15

It was a quick and eventful six days for the Sox.

"It was a fun trip, but I think we're ready to get back to our normal schedule," Pedroia said. "It's definitely been fun being here and opening the season here and playing these two games."

One thing that became clear during the trip was how far a reach Red Sox Nation has.

"It seems like when we travel, whether now it's Tokyo or whether it's Oakland or Anaheim or Texas, the fans of the Red Sox are everywhere," Francona said. "It's really become kind of a phenomenon. It's pretty interesting. You go down to the lobby of the hotel and there's Red Sox fans. Today, I was on a street by the Mizuno store and there were people on a bus waving, and we were just crossing the street. They're crazy about their team."

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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