MILWAUKEE -- All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve was named as the Astros' 2012 Most Valuable Player in voting conducted by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Reliever Wilton Lopez was named pitcher of the year and starting pitcher Lucas Harrell was lauded as the team's Rookie of the Year.
Altuve, 22, entered Sunday hitting .291 with seven homers, 37 RBIs and was in the top 10 in the National League in stolen bases (33) and batting average against left-handed pitchers (.359). He also had a 33-game errorless streak entering Sunday.
Lopez has been a fixture in the bullpen for the last three years and began play Sunday with a 6-3 record, nine saves and a 2.20 ERA in 63 games. He has the lowest walks per nine innings ratio among Major League relievers with 0.96 (entering Sunday).
Harrell made the starting rotation at the end of the spring and was the Astros' most consistent starting pitcher, going 10-11 with a 3.88 ERA in 31 starts. He leads all Major League rookies with 187 2/3 innings and is second among rookies in wins. He's the only NL rookie to pitch a shutout this year.
Meanwhile, Astros catcher Jason Castro was honored with the Darryl Kile "Good Guy" Award for his contributions in the community and cooperation with the media.
Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who's from Beaumont, was chosen as the Houston-area Major League player of the year, and long-time Spanish broadcaster Rene Cardenas was named the winner of the Fred Hartman Long and Meritorious Service Award.
Barnes making a name for himself with great plays
MILWAUKEE -- Brandon Barnes has been in the Major Leagues for only about six weeks, but he's already got a reputation for making spectacular diving catches in the outfield, including a diving grab Saturday to rob Juan Segura of a hit -- a play which resulted in a double play.
Barnes has made no fewer than four eye-popping diving catches in center field this year, including an ESPN top play of the day when he robbed St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay of a hit with a diving grab in Busch Stadium on Sept. 20.
"It's something I've always loved to do, going out there and making a good play for my pitchers and let them I know I have their back," Barnes said. "I go after every ball and expect to make the catch. I've made quite a few coming up through the Minor Leagues. It's weird that I've made three or four diving catches in a short span [in the Majors], but I feel like I've pretty much done that most of my Minor League career."
Barnes was a corner outfielder earlier in his Minor League career before making the move to center.
"I think it's easier to get a ball in center field because you have more room to run," he said.
Barnes said the favorite catch of his career came while he was playing for Class A Lancaster and he made a grab while crashing into the wall in High Desert before recovering to make a double play. His favorite grab with the Astros was his diving catch while charging in on Aug. 19 at home.
"I like to do it at home and show the fans how I play," he said.
Astros coaches meet with Keuchel to talk plans
MILWAUKEE -- Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson met for about 20 minutes Sunday with rookie starter Dallas Keuchel, who was roughed up for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in his final start of the season Saturday in Milwaukee, in what was a sort of exit interview.
DeFrancesco said the coaches went over some of the adjustments they'd like to see Keuchel make next year to stick in the rotation. In addition to wanting him to get bigger and stronger, DeFrancesco said he needs to establish his sinker more and hold runners better.
"Some of the mistakes he made [Saturday], hopefully next year he comes to Spring Training with confidence with his sinker as his No. 1 pitch and his changeup," he said. "When you come to Spring Training, there's new eyes on you, and you really have to impress because everybody is in the same boat."
Keuchel made 16 starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City and was 6-4 with a 3.90 ERA and made 16 starts with the Astros, going 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA and 14 homers allowed.
"Going into a new league next year, you're going to have some bigger, stronger guys with a DH in there," DeFrancesco said. "Most of the time with a left-handed pitcher, you're going to see a right-handed lineup like you did [Saturday], so we're going to have to be able to get righties out consistently."