ATLANTA (AP) _ John Smoltz, the best pitcher in Atlanta's struggling rotation, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday with an inflamed right elbow.

Smoltz (5-1) noticed the soreness during the Braves' 8-5 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. He allowed five runs in six innings, the most he has surrendered in 16 starts dating to last August, and his ERA climbed to 2.59 _ the first time it's been above 2.00 this season.

``When you're pitching good you want to keep pitching,'' he said. ``But as frustrated as I am, I know I'll be fine.''

Team doctors drained fluid from Smoltz's elbow before Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but an MRI showed no serious damage.

Smoltz is still suffering the lingering effects of arthroscopic surgery in December 1997. He spent the first two weeks of last season on the disabled list and went back there for nearly a month after his elbow acted up again.

Returning from his second stint on the DL on June 20, he went 13-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 18 starts. Overall, he led the majors in winning percentage with a 17-3 record (.850) to go along with a 2.90 ERA.

This season, Smoltz was by far the most effective starter in Atlanta's heralded rotation, winning his first five starts while fellow Cy Young winners Tom Glavine (2-4, 4.53 ERA) and Greg Maddux (4-3, 4.83) struggled.

Despite his subpar outing in Chicago, Smoltz has allowed only 40 hits in 55 2-3 innings, with 52 strikeouts. He seemed on track to challenge the best season of his career, a 24-8 performance in 1996 that landed his lone Cy Young Award.