BASEBALL: Former Ball State infielder earns promotion in minors

Kolbrin Vitek spent the summer getting used to playing professional baseball and relearning how to play third base.

Tuesday night, the Red Sox decided their first-round draft pick had done enough to earn a promotion to low Class A Greenville.

Vitek was picked 20th overall by the Red Sox after an All-American junior season at Ball State. He quickly agreed to sign and forego his senior year, joining short-season Class A Lowell. Vitek hit .270 with 30 RBIs in 56 games for the Spinners.

Throughout the season, Vitek showed flashes of the hitter who was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year in May. But he also struggled as he transitioned from facing college pitchers to professionals. Vitek has recently found his stroke.

In his final 10 games at Lowell, Vitek hit .405 and drove in 11 runs.

"I was battling through my swing all summer," he said. "I finally found it and am seeing the ball well."

Before the draft, few questioned Vitek's hitting abilities. His fielding was an entirely different matter. Vitek played second base last season for the Cardinals. The Red Sox converted him to third base, where he played in 2009 for Ball State.

The transition hasn't been flawless. Vitek has committed 14 errors, but he said he is making progress.

"I'm still not 100 percent," Vitek said. "It's going to take longer than a summer to get comfortable."

Vitek will continue getting used to third base after the season ends. He said the Red Sox will send him to instructionals at their Spring Training home in Fort Myers, Fla.

Until then, Vitek will get the experience of a pennant race. Greenville is one game behind Asheville in the Southern Division of the South Atlantic League. The two teams open a four-game series in Greenville on Thursday.

Vitek is looking forward to playing more meaningful games after a difficult season with Lowell. The Spinners are 19-43, 13.5 games out of first place.

"It's been a tough summer," he said. "It was a learning experience. But it was still good to just be playing professional baseball and learning the skills I need to move up."

Vitek joins former Ball State teammate Jeremy Hazelbaker in Greenville. The Red Sox 2009 fourth-round selection has played the whole season for the Drive and is a key reason behind their playoff push. Hazelbaker set Greenville's stolen base record July 2.

Vitek is looking forward to playing with Hazelbaker again, even if he couldn't get ahold of him Wednesday. Vitek said Hazelbaker might be "big leaguing" him and ignoring his phone calls.

"I'm excited to see him again," Vitek said. "It's good to know someone on the team."


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