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01/07/10 2:30 PM EST

Astros on track with Dominican complex

Club may open academy ahead of April target date

HOUSTON -- Plans are well ahead of schedule for the Astros to move into their new complex currently under construction in the Dominican Republic. The Astros announced in June they had finalized the details of a build-to-lease agreement for a new complex for their Dominican operations, and general manager Ed Wade said this week the academy could be functional much earlier than the April 15, 2010, target date. The club is pushing to be in the facility by March 1.

"[Coordinator of player development] Allen Rowin has gotten us some pretty good photos on the progress of the academy, and we could actually be in there a lot earlier than expected," Wade said. "We thought we'd be in by April 15, and now we could be in appreciably sooner than that. The fields have been sodded and they've painted the exterior of the building. We're excited about the project."

The all-inclusive academy is located in the Guerra Region of Boca Chica, D.R., and just one-half mile from the facilities of the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers and is close to the Kansas City Royals. The complex consists of two and a half playing fields, six pitching mounds, batting cages and an observation tower.

The facility also includes a two-story building with the first floor consisting of administrative offices, educational classrooms, a dining room, a full-service industrial kitchen, weight room, training room, manager and coaches offices, equipment room, clubhouse and laundry room.

The second floor features staff living accommodations, a computer lab with 15-20 work stations and a player entertainment room. Players will be given opportunity to enhance their diets and learn English so that they'll be able to function at a higher level when they move up the developmental chain and reach the United States.

"They know what they're doing down there, but we've been able to have some significant input on the structure itself and the field," Wade said.

Astros assistant general manager Ricky Bennett and Wade both plan to visit the complex prior to the start of Spring Training in six weeks. Bennett has already been to the academy, and Rowin, vice president of ballpark operations Bobby Forrest and director of Major League field operations Dan Bergstrom have also visited.

"I want to spend three to four days to check out the complex and make sure everything we need to have in place is there before we move in," Bennett said.

The Astros will begin holding workouts Monday at their old academy in San Pedro de Macoris for their youngest Dominican players. These are players who will play in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, along with players who will be in Major League camp and Minor League mini camp. Bennett said the group will consist of about 40 players.

The next wave of players begins working out Feb. 2, a group that includes regular Spring Training players and those who will be in the Minor Leagues. They'll work out for a month before coming to the U.S. for the start of Spring Training.

The Dominican Summer League season begins May 30.

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