BY TONI GINNETTI
Don’t be surprised if first baseman Jose Abreu moves to the other side of the diamond at times this season.
The slugger has taken ground balls at third base, and not just for show.
“There are questions about in an emergency of him going there and doing it,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “He actually moves well, and it’s something he has in his past [in Cuba]. He’d love to do it.
“If we had a situation where we had to get both those guys in a game [Abreu and Adam LaRoche] — maybe like interleague play — it’s a possibility. He has good hands and makes the throw fine. He does have that in him.’’
The Sox have Conor Gillaspie and Gordon Beckham as primary third basemen, and Emilio Bonifacio has played the position. But keeping Abreu’s bat in the lineup would be a deciding factor.
Repairing the bullpen was a priority. That made the relief corps’ performance Saturday and Sunday more significant. Zach Duke pitched the eighth inning to earn the victory Saturday before David Robertson earned his first save, striking out the side in the ninth.
“I think you envision that when those guys come in, especially with Duke facing [Joe] Mauer early,’’ Ventura said. “Then Robertson comes in with a clean inning and looked great.’’
Robertson’s effort answered concerns lingering from a less than impressive spring.
“The only concern was everybody else here who was like, ‘Wow, you stink. It’s spring, and you can’t get anybody out,’ ’’ Robertson said. ‘‘I just needed to get out of Arizona and get into an atmosphere that actually counted.
“Obviously, it ran through my head a couple times in spring, ‘I better start throwing a little better because they want to see they’re getting something good for what they paid for.’ It was just a matter of time letting those spring-training outings blow by and get to the real games.’’
Speed it up
Basestealing is not a staple of the Sox’ offense. They stole their first base Sunday in the eighth, when Avisail Garcia took second.
But improving the running game overall — and trying to control opponents who excel on the bases — remains an on-going goal.
“I think it’s important for us to hold the ball and make guys a little uncomfortable when they are on base,’’ Ventura said. “You have to be able to change that up, get a little quicker to the plate [with] throw-overs and all the stuff you have to do to shorten that up and make it more difficult for [opponents].
“It’s important when you start looking at if a guy gets on first and he’s automatically on second. It’s no different than a guy hitting a double if guys are running free. You really have to take pride in giving your [catcher] a chance. We need to be better at that.’’
The majority of Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle’s 200 victories came in a Sox uniform, making his milestone victory Friday a cause for pride.
“He’s a guy who doesn’t have that velocity, but he has a great feel for the game,’’ Ventura said. “He does it with guile and guts. You’re happy for him because he was here for so long.’’