Oakland Athletics outfielder Travis Buck leaves after team's batting practice at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, Friday, March 21, 2008. The Athletics will meet the Boston Red Sox in their two-day Major League regular season openers in Japan on March 25 and 26. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder) - AP

Long road to opening day

TOKYO — The Boston Red Sox finally have a very good reason to get out of bed.

The exhibition games are over. The regular season is about to start. And their jet lag is fading — but still not gone.

"The last couple of days have been pretty rough," Tim Wakefield, master of the hypnotic knuckler, said Sunday. "My body's still adjusting, but I think last night was the first night I got a decent amount of sleep and not waking up four or five times during the night."

He was awake enough to do some sightseeing for the first time on the trip Sunday before he pitched 5 2/3 innings in that night's 9-2 victory over the Yomiuri Giants, returning to his hotel in a cab about five hours before the game.

No touring, though, for Terry Francona, manager of the defending World Series champion. The skipper with tunnel vision sees his hotel, tall buildings and Tokyo Dome, not the shrines and gardens that are part of Japan's culture.

"I had a peanut-butter sandwich for Easter and something I wasn't sure what it was," he said. "We're in a different city, but it could just as well be San Francisco. It doesn't matter. I come to the ballpark. I wake up, and I go to the ballpark."

He'll be there again today when his team works out ahead of Tuesday's major league season opener against Oakland, when former Seibu Lions great Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches for Boston. Joe Blanton is scheduled to pitch for the Athletics, who may have coped better with the time change because their trip to Tokyo was shorter. Both teams arrived Thursday night.

Oakland beat the Hanshin Tigers 10-2 on Sunday as Donnie Murphy hit a grand slam, Jack Cust had a two-run homer and Travis Buck hit a solo shot.

Boston's J.D. Drew also hit a grand slam Sunday, five months after hitting one in Game 6 of the AL championship series against Cleveland. Unlike some of his teammates, he seemed fresh.

Coco Crisp joked about the reception for Boston reliever Hideki Okajima, who spent 11 seasons with Yomiuri. He pitched a scoreless seventh, with flashes popping when he threw.

"With all the cameras and stuff, that was pretty cool," Crisp said. "I was so tired I thought it was just twilight. I thought I was dreaming. Nine o'clock in the morning (EDT), man. I hit a triple at 9 o'clock in the morning. That's crazy."

That would be 10 p.m. Tokyo time, when he tripled in a run in Boston's two-run ninth.

Bryan Corey, who pitched for Yomiuri in 2004, was talking about striking out the only batter he faced in relief of Wakefield when he started to yawn.

"I'm a little tired right now," he apologized. "It just hit me, a long day and a long night. Still, coming back here and pitching is nice and it was fun."

Okajima got a rousing ovation. He was an all-star as a rookie last year with the Red Sox when he posted a 2.22 ERA, better than any he had in his nine full seasons with Yomiuri before playing for Hokkaido in 2006.

"Today was the biggest ovation I've ever seen him receive here," Giants manager Tatsunori Hara said.

It's nothing compared with the roar that is sure to come from the admirers Matsuzaka when fans fill the Dome for the earliest opener in major league history.

"That was a feel-good moment for us," Francona said of Okajima's reception. "It kind of reminded me of the time Dice-K faced Ichiro (Suzuki) at Fenway" for the first time last season.

But that's in the past. On Tuesday, the winner of two of the last four World Series will face an Oakland team coming off its first sub-.500 finish in nine seasons.

Beating Boston will be tougher because Eric Chavez didn't make the trip after having two shoulder surgeries and one back operation in the last six months. Still, Francona is concerned. He may even toss and turn in bed, wondering if his team is ready for the season to start.

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