After a lifetime in the minor leagues, Rick Short had finally made it. There was no denying he could be a major league hitter the moment he sent a John Smoltz fastball over the left field fence at RFK Stadium two weeks ago. Days earlier he had done the same against Florida's Dontrelle Willis.

At last he was finally getting a chance to prove he could be a big league player for the Washington Nationals.

Which made his injury Friday night while diving for a ground ball all the more cruel. Doctors examined his left shoulder yesterday and discovered Short had a torn labrum. He will be operated on today by team physician Wiemi Douoghui at the Washington Medical Center and may need up to six months to recuperate.

The Nationals had offseason plans for the 32-year-old, who impressed them by flirting with a .400 average at Class AAA New Orleans and by hitting .400 in 11 games with Washington. They had designed a program for him to work on his defense in hopes of finding him a position for next year. Now that time will be spent rehabilitating.

"It's kind of bad timing because I was getting a chance to play," a glum Short said as he stood in the Nationals' clubhouse yesterday. He had yet to know the significance of the injury but understood his season was likely done. "But I guess in another way it's great timing because there's only eight games left and I can get ready for spring training. It's better it happened now than in April and lose the whole season."

Short's shoulder popped out of its socket and then fell back in place on Friday night, but it turns out the same thing had happened to him twice before this season while he was playing for the Zephyrs. At the time, neither injury was considered too serious so he kept playing. But when it happened a third time, an MRI exam was ordered and the torn labrum was discovered.

No Appeal for Guillen

Right fielder Jose Guillen decided to not appeal his one-game suspension for throwing bats on the field after being thrown out of a game in New York on Sept. 14. Instead he sat out last night's game and paid the $1,500 fine.

"It's better to just get it over with," he said.