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Red Sox tab Vitek with first pick in Draft

Red Sox tab Vitek with first pick in Draft

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CLEVELAND -- No, the Red Sox weren't looking for Dustin Pedroia's eventual replacement when they snagged Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek with the 20th overall pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft.

What the Sox were looking for -- and what they are confident they found -- is an impact bat from the right side who they project will settle into the middle of the order.

Draft Central

And Vitek's time at second base virtually ended with the culmination of his college career. Once he signs with the Red Sox, which is expected to be within days, he will make the switch to third base, a position he played regularly during his sophomore year.

"Tonight, when they were talking to me, it was as a third baseman," Vitek said. "That's kind of been what I've been expecting. Third base is my projectable position, I feel."

But the Red Sox didn't draft him for his glove. It is his bat and athleticism they like, and they got an even better look at those things last weekend, when Vitek worked out at Fenway Park.

"Vitek was a guy who was a follow coming into the year, but really focusing on this year, we kind of fell in love with his bat and his athleticism," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

During that visit to Fenway, Vitek had fun not only getting acquainted with the decision-makers from the team that wound up drafting him, but he also took aim at the Green Monster.

"I met just about every man in the head of operations at the Red Sox -- the general manager, the assistant general manager, all the scouts," said Vitek. "The workout went very well. I worked out at two infield positions and then we took some BP on the field. It went very well."

And what was it like hitting at Fenway?

"Fenway, with that short left field, you can play pepper with the Green Monster, and I occasionally put a few balls over the wall, and I enjoyed BP in Fenway quite a bit, putting them off the fence," said Vitek. "And especially using right field, I love hitting the ball the other way and running. And with Fenway, there's a lot of that with a deeper right-field fence."

What there won't be is any kind of prolonged contract negotiations.

"I expect to sign right away and get off a plane and start my career right away," Vitek said. "Yeah, there were some [contract] numbers thrown around tonight. We decided on a number that was definitely a fair contract to me and a fair contract to them. We're excited to get it started and get signed pretty quickly here and get it going and get into the swing as soon as possible."

Vitek is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. He was named the 2010 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. He led the league with 73 runs, tied for second with 17 homers and ranked third with 68 RBI and 161 total bases.

Vitek, 21, hails from Bryan, Ohio. He is a semifinalist for the highly-prestigious Golden Spikes Award.

In his career at Ball State, Vitek hit .359 with 35 homers, 159 RBIs and a .440 on-base percentage in 142 games. Vitek also pitched in college, going 13-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 42 games.

Aside from his potent bat, Vitek is regarded as having above-average speed.

The Red Sox hope that Vitek will be the latest in a string of Draft selections that have worked out over the past decade, including Jon Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.

"It's very exciting to join such a successful organization, and I'm excited to see how they run it and excited to get it all started," said Vitek. "I'm not too familiar with them just because they're not from my area and I didn't grow up on the East Coast or anything like that, but I've always watched them. They've been on TV a lot. I know that they're very successful and run a clean organization, so I'm very excited for that."

The Padres, who had the ninth pick, were the other team that had strong interest in Vitek. But once they went in another direction, the Red Sox started to gain confidence that they were going to get their man.

"He has a very smooth swing with above-average bat speed," said Red Sox amateur scouting director Amiel Sawdaye. "We really project him for plus power. He's a guy that can drive to both gaps consistently and somebody we think has a chance to play average defense at third base. He's a middle-of-the-order-type bat for us."

It was just starting to sink in for Vitek that he's about to join one of the most storied franchises in sports.

"It's a great experience to be in an organization with top names like Pedroia and [Kevin] Youkilis and guys like that," said Vitek.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
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