TAMPA, Florida — Masahiro Tanaka is staying away from one pitch and working on another.
Tanaka allowed three runs and four hits while pitching into the fifth inning Wednesday for the New York Yankees in a 7-2 loss to the rival Mets.
The Japanese ace is not using his higher speed four-seam fastball and instead is focusing on a slower two-seam sinker.
"A lot of the four-seamers had been hit hard last year," Tanaka said through a translator. "I'm not a pitcher that throws 95 every single pitch."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka is trying to improve his game.
"I think there's room for both," Girardi said. "Sometimes you get some quick outs with sinkers. There's more movement."
After allowing an unearned run in the first, Tanaka gave up a solo homer to John Mayberry, Jr. in the fourth The third run charged to Tanaka came when struggling closer candidate Dellin Betances gave up Juan Lagares' two-run shot during the fifth.
Tanaka struck out seven and walked one in 4 2-3 innings. The Yankees' expected opening-day starter, against Toronto on April 6, was coming off two starts where the he had given up two hits over 5 2-3 shutout innings.
"I think I was able to get into the game a little bit more, the intensity of the game," Tanaka said.
Alex Rodriguez grounded a single to left in three at-bats as the designated hitter for the Yankees, and is hitting .290 (9 for 31).
New York general manager Brian Cashman said before the game that Rodriguez has pushed himself into full-time DH consideration. A-Rod, who turns 40 in July, missed last season serving a drug suspension.
"We still have 10 days to go and obviously that feels good, but I have a lot of work to do," Rodriguez said. "I think I'm getting better. It's still a process moving forward the next 10 days."
Mets: RHP Rafael Montero gave up one run, three hits and had four strikeouts in four innings.
"He's got a really good arm," Rodriguez said. "He should be a nice asset for that team for a long time."
Yankees: Tanaka threw 59 pitches, including 47 strikes.
Mets: Closer Bobby Parnell (right elbow surgery) gave up a double and had a strikeout over one inning in a minor league game. He previously pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Saturday. "It was an improvement from last outing," said Parnell, who threw 17 pitches. "I felt like I was a little more in control and it was a step in the right direction. Parnell could return in May. ... 2B Daniel Murphy did baseball drills for the first time since straining his right hamstring March 19. He hit off a tee and took throws at first base. ... RHP Zack Wheeler had Tommy John surgery and has an expected recovery time of 14 months. ... 1B Lucas Duda was OK after being in the back by a pitch.
Yankees: Cashman has no worries about CF Jacoby Ellsbury (oblique) being ready for opening day. "We have the time to deal with it and get it resolved down here," Cashman said. Ellsbury will hit off a tee and do soft toss Thursday. ... Cashman says RHP Ivan Nova's comeback from right elbow-ligament replacement is going exceptionally well and he should return in June.