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For decades, the Red Sox were known as a bunch of plodders _ plenty of power but little speed.

From 1936 through 1993, a span of 58 years, they stole more than 80 bases just four times.

“It’s not something that this franchise has been known for,” general manager Theo Epstein said. “I think we’ve tried to get away from the right-handed, power-hitting, pull-hitting base clogger as a core element of the club.

“We have some good right-handed hitters but we’re really looking for players who can help us on both sides of the ball, players who can run the bases well, are well-rounded. We’ve been trying to get more athletic for years.”

Their 120 steals in 2008 were the most since they had 129 in 1916. In 2009, with Ellsbury’s 70, they stole 126. But with Ellsbury sidelined, that dropped to 68 last year.

If he and Crawford stay healthy, they figure to swipe more than 129 this year.

But the new left fielder brings much more than just speed that intimidates pitchers.

An outstanding defensive player throughout his career, Crawford won his first Gold Glove last year in left field. He hit .307 last year, the fifth time in six seasons he surpassed .300. And he’s hit at least 11 triples in five of the past seven seasons, with a high of an AL-best 13 last year.

The short left-field wall in Fenway Park might turn potential triples into doubles, but Crawford won’t concede that.

“I’m going to take off running so fast that if the guy plays around just a little bit, I’m going to still try to go for three,” he said. “I like to get triples.”

But if he has to stop at first, he could be standing at third later in the inning.

That happened in the fifth inning of his six-stolen base game when he singled and stole second and third. He also stole second in the first and continued to third on Varitek’s throwing error. Two more stolen bases came after he beat out infield singles.

When Crawford was in Boston in December for his introductory news conference, he talked with Varitek.

“We just kind of gave each other a hug, kind of buried the hatchet a little bit,” Crawford said, “and I let him know, I’m on your side now, so you don’t have to worry about all that anymore.”

He also apologized Friday for not mentioning his years in Tampa Bay at that news conference when he struggled to speak with a sore throat.

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