SURPRISE, Ariz. -- So what did Yu Darvish think of the new posting system and what the New York Yankees gave Masahiro Tanaka -- a contract that could pay him $99 million more in guaranteed money than Darvish got from the Texas Rangers?
"I don't know the details of the posting system, but I think the Yankees gave him a little bit too much," said Darvish, chuckling along with his interpreter as he talked to the media for the first time since the end of last season.
Darvish later released a statement, saying the comment was a joke.
"I am sorry if anyone took my comment seriously about Masahiro Tanaka at the press conference today," he said. "I assumed by the reaction in the room that everyone knew I was joking."
Tanaka signed with the Yankees last month for $155 million over seven years, an average of $22.1 million per year. That did not include the $20 million posting fee the Yankees paid Tanaka's Japanese team.
Darvish is making an average of $9.3 million and is coming off a 2013 season in which he was the runner-up for the AL Cy Young Award.
He was posted after the 2011 season and got a six-year, $56 million guaranteed deal with the Rangers (including another $4 million if healthy in the final years of the contract), but Texas had to pay his Japanese team a $51.7 million posting fee.
The system has changed, meaning the pitcher receives more of the money than the team. It also means the Rangers have a bargain on their hands. Darvish can opt out of the final year of his deal if he wins the Cy Young in the next three seasons or is in the top four of the voting in two of the next three years.
The 27-year-old right-hander, who went 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA last season and led the majors with 277 strikeouts, threw his first live batting practice session of the spring Tuesday and said he felt good.
Darvish experienced lower back pain in September and received an injection after the season. Altering his offseason program to include lifting less weight helped the pain go away in mid-January, he said.
He is slated to be the team's Opening Day starter and is focused on preparing for the season. It helps that this is his third spring training in the big leagues.
"I'm more relaxed, and I can do many things at my own pace, and I'm aware of what's going on, and people know me better than in the past," he said. "So I feel more relaxed this time."