03/27/08 8:56 PM ET
Sox shake off cobwebs with LA workout
Ortiz, Pedroia among those who take in BP at Dodger Stadium
By John Klima / Special to MLB.com
"My body still thinks it's in Japan," he said. "It never got the memo that we're back."
Red Sox feet were firmly on the ground Thursday afternoon. The team arrived in Los Angeles at 6:30 p.m. PT Wednesday, following a 9 1/2-hour flight. Red Sox regulars David Ortiz, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek and Dustin Pedroia were among a group of about 15 players at the workout. It was enough for two groups of batting practice and a much-needed opportunity to stretch out after a long journey. Outfielder J.D. Drew also received treatment on his bothersome back.
Ortiz, responding to a few fans hollering at him in Spanish from the upper deck, launched a few baseballs in their direction, including one Major League popup that landed harmlessly in foul territory.
Manager Terry Francona said that his players were glad to be back in America. The team is making a three-game exhibition detour in Los Angeles -- including a return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday, the Dodgers' original California home -- before resuming the regular season in Oakland on Tuesday. The Red Sox are still carrying 26 players, with one roster move yet to be made before the weekend is over.
The decision will likely center around the final spot in the bullpen and depends on the availability of veteran Mike Timlin, who is not expected to pitch this weekend. If Timlin is unable to begin the regular season, right-hander Bryan Corey -- a Los Angeles-area native who has had a strong spring -- is in excellent position to begin the season in the big league bullpen.
Francona said he'd like his regulars to get at least two at-bats Saturday and Sunday. The detour to Los Angeles is, in essence, a breather after the Japan trip in preparation for the regular season.
The Red Sox can expect extremely hitter-convenient conditions at the Coliseum. Center field is 380 feet deep, while the right-field line is a 300-foot poke, and the famously friendly left-field line will be 201 feet. The Dodgers are anticipating a crowd of 115,000 fans. To put that in perspective, a typical USC college football game at the Coliseum generally draws between 80-90,000 spectators.
So while the Red Sox worked out in front of perhaps only those two fans calling for Ortiz, it is going to change Saturday. Francona was most concerned with getting his players situated again.
"You hear all the horror stories, but I don't want to talk about feeling tired," Francona said. "We feel OK."
Pedroia said the trip was a memorable experience, but that the team was happy to be back.
"This was nice to get back on the field and just stretch it out a little bit," he said. "The trip was an experience. At this point, I think we're just ready to get back to the [regular] season."
That's why Francona was more concerned with getting his players back into normal routines.
"You're out of your routine," he said. "That's what's hard. Guys aren't used to it, and it's a big deal when guys are still getting ready for the season."
He said that the team did not have access to free weights in Japan, so many position players worked out at Dodger Stadium prior to taking the field for light hitting.
Francona also said he was pleased how his players conducted themselves on the trip and responded to the demands placed on them.
"I thought our players handled what they were asked to handle," Francona said. "There were 29 appearances and all our guys did what they were asked to do. They did it respectfully. This is easier to get [ready] again, which is harder over there. You just can't push a button."
John Klima is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.