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07/03/09 10:19 PM ET

Astros ink five international players

Four teens slated for Dominican League, one to GCL

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Astros wasted little time in getting their feet wet during the international signing period, announcing Friday they had agreed to terms on contracts with five players -- two from the Dominican Republic, one from Nicaragua, one from Venezuela and one from Italy.

Houston general manager Ed Wade said the club agreed to terms with right-handers Enderson Franco (Venezuela) and Alexander Martinez (Nicaragua), left-hander Kilby Pena (Dominican) and infielders Luca Martone (Italy) and Yonathan Mejia (Dominican).

Martinez, Martone and Mejia are 16 years old, and Martinez and Pena are 17. Players have to be 16 years old by July 2 to be eligible to be signed during the international signing period.

"We talk about the uncertainty of the Draft and U.S. kids," Wade said. "I think to an even larger extent it's a real crapshoot when it comes to players in Latin American countries because you start talking about some kids and how they project with proper nutrition and how their body types are going to change and things of that nature.

"It really takes a long-range projection on their part, but the other thing is these kids get some time under their belt in the Dominican Summer League. This time next year when the complex is built [in the Dominican] it will create a structure for them to move over here and become productive."

Wade said Latin American scouting director Felix Francisco and director of Pacific Rim scouting Glen Barker have been instrumental in spearheading the Astros' efforts in scouting and signing international players.

"We're happy Felix has been able to be aggressive down there and got some guys we think have a chance to be pretty good players," Wade said. "He and his guys deserve a lion's share of credit. Anything that adds depth to the system gives us a head start on where we want to be."

Francisco conducted an invitational workout about six weeks ago in the Dominican and invited assistant general manager/director of scouting Bobby Heck to watch the players. Franco, Martinez, Mejia and Pena have been assigned to the Dominican Summer League team, and Martone will report to the Gulf Coast League affiliate.

The Astros, who will open a new academy in the Dominican next April, closed their academy in Venezuela earlier this year in favor of adding another short-season club in the Gulf Coast League, which will serve as a domestic landing spot for most international players.

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