Sox Fall For Vitek

Ball State bat heads to Boston





BOSTON—The message from most of the college baseball programs to Kolbrin Vitek was the same. Teams were interested in having him join their programs, but they wanted the righthander with a low-90s fastball to pitch.

Vitek insisted on finding a place where he would be able to be a two-way player. Ball State University complied, and the 6-foot-3 righthander flourished while playing second and third as well as serving as the team's Sunday pitcher.

Though successful on the mound, ultimately, Vitek's offensive potential became too great to ignore. His tremendous bat speed, generated with a compact righthanded stroke, is complemented by an impressive across-the-board tool set that ultimately led the Sox to draft him with the No. 20 pick of the first round.

"It didn't take long. By the end of his freshman year, I was starting to get a sense that an offensive player was what he was going to be as a professional," Ball State coach Greg Beals said. "His size, his speed and his bat, that combination, I saw it just being a little more special."

Vitek hit .361 with 17 homers and 16 steals en route to winning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year honors. Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye expects Vitek's present gap-to-gap power to grow into above-average power as his frame fills out thanks to an advanced plate approach.

After he played second base for Ball State as a junior (done primarily to preserve his pitching arm), the Sox plan to have Vitek play third (a position that he played as a sophomore). The team feels he could also play center.

"We kind of fell in love with his bat and his athleticism," said Sox GM Theo Epstein.

Vitek, who worked out at Fenway Park last weekend, said that he and the Sox had reached a verbal agreement on a deal, and a baseball source confirmed that Vitek had agreed in principle to sign for the slot bonus. Sawdaye said only that the two sides were "close to deals" and that an announcement may be coming in "the next couple of days, pending physicals."

"We decided on a number that was definitely a fair contract for me and a fair contract for them," Vitek said. "We're excited to get it started and sign up pretty quickly here and get going and get into this thing as soon as possible.

"It's very exciting to join such a successful organization and I'm excited to see how they run it and I'm excited to get it all started," he said.

SOX YARNS

• The Sox selected Bryce Brentz out of Middle Tennessee State University with their first sandwich pick (No. 36 overall). Sawdaye said Brentz possesses "light tower, plus raw power."

• While Vitek and Brentz are expected to start their pro careers soon, the team's last first-day pick, righthander Anthony Ranaudo out of LSU, will likely require a longer negotiation. "The good ones are sometimes worth waiting for," Epstein said of the Boras client.