Marlins RHP Alex Fernandez cut short his comeback season yesterday, preferring to strengthen his surgically repaired right shoulder for next season. He and team management agreed on the decision.

Fernandez, 30, missed the 1998 season while recovering from rotator cuff surgery that was performed Oct. 29, 1997, following the Marlins' run to the World Series title.

Fernandez finished this season on a high note Saturday night, allowing two hits and four runs in 7 2/3 innings of a 6-4 win over the Padres. Fernandez also hit his third home run. He finished 7-8 with a 3.38 ERA. In 24 starts, he pitched 141 innings.

"I'm proud of my season and of the organization for supporting me in my comeback," Fernandez said. "This will help me come back stronger for next year."

Fernandez has been on a 100-pitch count all season. He spent two stints on the disabled list, once with soreness in the shoulder and the other time because of a pulled groin.

BUC STARTS HERE: Chad Hermansen, the Pirates' most-anticipated outfield prospect since Barry Bonds, will join the team Tuesday and will make his first major league start that night against the Padres.

The Pirates have been waiting for Class AAA Nashville's playoff status to be determined before calling up Hermansen, who has 32 homers despite sitting out nearly two weeks recently with pneumonia.

Nashville's regular season ends today and the 21-year-old Hermansen won't stay with the Sounds even if they qualify for the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

"I'm anxious to see him," Pirates Manager Gene Lamont said. "A team like the Pirates, we have to use the minor league system. I want to see him play."

OF NOTE: The Braves' Chipper Jones has drawn a walk in 16 consecutive games, tying Jack Clark's NL mark set in 1987.