PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : Three-for-Four Day Isn't Enough to Earn Morris NL Batting Title

The phone starting ringing Sunday in the San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium press box. The folks in Atlanta were getting nervous. Cincinnati's Hal Morris had three hits in his first three at-bats and needed one more to take the batting title away from the Braves' Terry Pendleton.

Morris got his fourth at-bat in the seventh inning and hit a line drive that sliced toward the left-center gap. He ran toward first, keeping his eye on the ball the whole way and hoping it would drop.

Instead, Padres center fielder Darrin Jackson sprinted toward the ball, stuck his glove into the air and caught it. Morris spun his body in the air and grimaced.

Morris, who ended the game standing in the on-deck circle, fell one hit short of winning his first batting title. He went three for four, finishing with a .318 batting average, second to Pendleton's .319 average.

"I really thought that ball was in the gap," Morris said, slowly shaking his head. "But I gave it a run, didn't I? I gave it a run."

Morris entered the game with a dismal chance of winning the title. He needed to go four for four or four for five to win the title. Worse, he was facing Padres starter Andy Benes, off whom he had batted .100.

Morris calmly stroked three consecutive singles off Benes in his first three at-bats, all off fastballs. Yet, he never had the opportunity to face Benes again. Teammate Chris Jones knocked Benes out of the game in the sixth when he hit a line drive off Benes' hamstring.

"He wasn't really excited about seeing me leaving the game," he said. "He was probably mad at Jones for hitting the ball at me."

"I'm not too disappointed," Morris said. "Really, it was a lot of fun."

Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn, who has won four batting titles, watched helplessly watch Sunday afternoon, stuck with his .316 batting average.

"You feel for him," Gwynn said. "The first one is hard to swallow when you lose, because you just don't know if you'll be back."

Padres shortstop Tony Fernandez, bothered by sprained ligaments in his thumb the past few months, will undergo surgery today. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Merlin Hamer at Scripps Clinic.

Although Fernandez is eligible to demand a trade at the conclusion of the World Series, one of his closest friends on the team predicted Sunday that Fernandez will stay.

"If they get (free agent) Mariano Duncan, it's a lock," the player said. "But I think he's coming back anyway."

Reds pitcher Jose Rijo, who lost in his bid for the ERA title, also apparently lost $62,500 because of a miscalculation.

Rijo has a provision in his contract that would have paid him $62,500 if he pitched 205 innings, but yet, he finished the season with 204 1/3 innings, falling two-thirds of an inning short.

"What, I didn't get it?" he said. "You've got to be kidding me. I'll be damned. Hey, I'm close enough. If they don't give it to me, they're going to have one teed off Dominican. . . .

"I'll never pitch with incentives again in my contract. It just hurts you. My elbow's been killing me. The only reason I went out there the last three starts was because of the money."

The Padres, as expected, decided to pick up the option year of pitcher Ed Whitson's contract. He'll earn $1 million for the 1992 season. . . . The Padres finished the season with their fourth consecutive victory, allowing the Padres to finish with an 84-78 record, equaling their third-best in Padre history. . . . The Padres committed 113 errors this season, the fewest in franchise history. . . . The Padres finished the season drawing 1,804,289 fans, the sixth-largest in franchise history. . . . The Reds, according to a source, will fire pitching coach Stan Williams this week and promote bullpen coach Larry Rothschild to the position.

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