ATLANTA -- For six weeks, Derek Lowe has pitched with a nagging pain near his right elbow.
He doesn't expect it to keep him off the mound during the Atlanta Braves' playoff push, but it was serious enough for him to receive the first injection of his career.
Lowe finally opened up Tuesday about a problem that had him flexing his right hand during his last start, a miserable three-inning effort against Florida. He surrendered five runs before deciding he couldn't go on.
''I knew I was in trouble when I started,'' the 37-year-old Lowe said before the Braves faced the New York Mets. ''I didn't have any strength in my hand. I told Roger (McDowell, the pitching coach) after the third inning, 'This is pointless.'''
Lowe (11-12, 4.53 ERA) said the problem is actually behind his elbow but affects his ability to grip the ball. He told the Braves about the pain three weeks ago and had been caring for its with anti-inflammatory medication and treatment.
After his last start, he decided to try a cortisone shot for the first time. He has lost three straight decisions, and only an improbable comeback by the Braves in his last appearance kept his skid from reaching four in a row.
Lowe insists that his problem is nothing serious, perhaps just a severe case of tendinitis.
''I've done countless exams and talked to doctors and it's not the ligament, it's not the Tommy John thing,'' Lowe said, referring to the ligament replacement operation that usually requires at least a year of recovery time. ''We're trying to figure out what we can do to get the swelling out where I can bend my arm.''
Lowe has failed to live up to expectations the Braves had when they signed him to a four-year, $60 million contract before the 2009 season. He was a 15-game winner last year but had a 4.67 ERA. This season, he's been the fourth-best starter behind Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.
Lowe planned to do some light tossing Tuesday. If there are no lingering problems, he'll take his regular between-starts throwing session Wednesday and make his next scheduled start Friday against the Marlins in Florida.
''In hindsight, this is how I've always been with my body. No matter what it is, I figure I can always deal with it,'' Lowe said. ''But that last game ... I probably should have come out after the first inning.''