LOS ANGELES - Baseball is all about routine. You do the same things at the same times. And you do them every day.
Not for the Red Sox in the spring of 2008. Not when there's an 18-day, three-country road trip to start the season. Not when you cross the international timeline twice, going to Tokyo, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Toronto before coming home to Fenway.
Most of the jet-lagged Sox showed up for a voluntary workout at Dodger Stadium yesterday afternoon. A few were happy just to have a chance to hit the weight room again. Tokyo Dome offered nothing more than 20-pound weights and players had to remove shoes before going into the room.
All kinds of adjustments had to be made on this trip, and the next realignment is the shift back into spring training mode. After two games that counted, the Sox are playing three exhibitions against the Dodgers tonight through Sunday. These are nine-inning mind games.
Imagine going 0 for 7 in Japan, then coming here and hitting a couple of homers that don't count, then going to Oakland for another oh-fer. Stuff like this messes with a man's brain.
"This game is all about preparation, and that's what we're trying to do right now," said David Ortiz, who no doubt wishes the two games against the A's (0 for 7) didn't count. "This should be planned better, you know? You play a few games that count, then you come over here. But what are you going to do?"
"It's a little weird," added Mike Lowell. "I think for the guys that didn't swing the bat good, it's a good thing. Now they get three days off to take it out of your memory bank. And the guys who are feeling comfortable can use these days to stay in the flow. But it is weird that now the games don't count. In spring training, I want to hit the ball well and make an out - I want to use those up in spring training. I think once we get to Toronto, it will feel normal."
"You just can't push a button and have a guy get four hits," said manager Terry Francona. "J.D. [Drew] hits a grand slam the day before [the opener], you'd rather take it the next day, but you can't do that.
"We'll step back now and try to get guys the right amount of playing time going into Oakland."
An impressive number of Sox players attended the voluntary practice. Manny Ramírez and Coco Crisp were the only position players who took the day off. Pitching coach John Farrell was absent because of a tooth problem and may miss tonight's game. The Sox also went to work without bench coach Brad Mills and general manager Theo Epstein.
"I'm not surprised to see so many guys," said Kevin Youkilis. "This is a good group. I think a lot of guys wanted to get a workout in and lift."
Most of the ballplayers said they felt fresh after a night's sleep in the wake of their return flight from Tokyo.
"I thought it was Friday, but otherwise, I'm OK," said Tim Wakefield, who is scheduled to start tomorrow night's game in front of 115,000 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
"I feel all right, but I felt OK the first day in Japan and then felt bad the second day," said Ortiz. "Maybe that will happen again.
Francona was hoping the Sox could avert post-Japan syndrome.
"You hear all the war stories, but I don't want us to talk ourselves into being tired," said the manager. "I feel OK. I think all the guys do. We did the best we could. I think everybody seems like they feel better here today than we did at any point over there.
"I think our players handled what they were asked to handle. There were 29 appearances and they all did what they were asked to do and they did it with a smile. They did it respectfully and treated people real well. Because you're out of your routine, that's what's hard. The first day we were there, we didn't have a [batting] tee. Guys are used to that. And we're still getting ready for a season."
"I don't even know what day it is, but I know that tomorrow we have a game," said Lowell. "I think guys realize we're getting ready for a season. Those guys want to get out there and get into the flow as soon as possible. We're going to work.
"This isn't a vacation."
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.