MIAMI -- The Florida Marlins' quest to dethrone the National League-champion Braves took a detour Wednesday when Atlanta's Tom Glavine stopped them with a three-hitter and Florida left fielder Moises Alou came up injured.
But that was small change compared with what happened yesterday morning.
Florida learned that its No. 2 starter, Alex Fernandez, has a torn rotator cuff that could keep him from pitching through next season.
Fernandez, who signed a five-year, $35 million contract in joining the Marlins this year, obviously wasn't himself when he struggled through 2 2/3 innings in Game 2, a 7-1 defeat.
An MRI of Fernandez's pitching arm yesterday revealed "a full-thickness tear of the rotator cuff in his right shoulder," said general manager Dave Dombrowski.
Manager Jim Leyland said fifth starter Livan Hernandez will slide into Fernandez's spot in the rotation and pitch Game 6, if there is one.
Hernandez also may get some work this weekend. He has not pitched since throwing four effective innings against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 1 in the second game of the Division Series.
Leyland said he may try to pitch Hernandez in relief to keep him sharp.
Fernandez is scheduled to undergo surgery soon and will miss an undetermined amount of time.
Emotionally, the loss could be a major setback to the Marlins, who already plan to start Kevin Brown three times, if necessary, and have Alou, their leading RBI man, nursing a jammed left wrist.
"It puts a big damper on our club," said Dombrowski. "By no means, did I expect this to be the diagnosis."
Fernandez said that he has experienced intermittent pain for some time, but that he "dealt with it and learned to pitch through. At this point in time, you try to pitch through everything."
He added that his arm felt pretty good warming up Wednesday, but that he realized in the game that he didn't have his normal velocity.
Previous examinations of the shoulder had not disclosed any abnormality, but team physician Dr. Daniel Kanell had set up an appointment with a specialist after Fernandez complained of severe pain.
"We wanted to face them with all their guns blazing," said Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. "We wanted to meet their best."
Alou may fill role
The loss of sore-wristed Alou, who knocked in 115 runs, is potentially more damaging.
There is a chance the outfielder could play tonight, with his status listed as day-to-day after he received a cortisone shot.
"We will have a replacement if he's not ready," Leyland said. "That's why we signed John Cangelosi and Jim Eisenreich."
Alou does not have good numbers against tonight's Atlanta starter, John Smoltz. He is 3-for-27 with eight strikeouts.
Around the horn
Al Leiter's relief appearance Wednesday was his first since 1993. He is scheduled to pitch Game 5 for the Marlins. Charles Johnson's error does not affect his regular-season streak of 171 consecutive error-free games. Tonight and tomorrow night's games are sellouts. The Marlins had 12 during the season, but capacity has been increased by almost 8,000 for the LCS. In their past 50 outings, Braves starters have a combined 2.52 ERA. Smoltz can pass Whitey Ford and Dave Stewart for most postseason victories ever with his 11th tonight.
Pub Date: 10/10/97