VIERA, Fla. — Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was in Phoenix late Thursday night to prepare for his arbitration hearing the next day.
He was set to go to bed when he received word from his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, that progress had been made in terms of getting a deal done. Within a few hours,Zimmerman agreed to a one-year, $3.325 million contract.
Zimmerman was back at Space Coast Stadium by Friday afternoon. He took his physical and had a batting-practice session with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
“We are trying to eliminate the extra moves prior to getting him into his hitting position, allowing his head and eyes to stay more still so he can see the ball better,” Eckstein said. “We want him to have better pitch recognition, better strike-zone discipline. Those are the things we are trying to accomplish.”
By Saturday morning, Zimmerman was sitting on his stool talking to the media about his negotiations with the Nationals. Zimmerman insisted that the relationship between him and club was not strained before agreeing to the new deal.
“It wasn’t strained, it was just back and forth, talking, and that’s how things get done,” Zimmerman said. “I think if we didn’t have the relationship we have — where we were so open with each other — I don’t know if it gets done the way it got done. I guess it could cause strain, but in the long term, I don’t think it’s strained at all. I think it’s more respect and being honest with each other.”
Zimmerman said during the arbitration process, there was “heavy” talk about giving Zimmerman a multiyear deal. Both Zimmerman and Washington hope to get something done by Opening Day.
“Like I told you all along, this is where I want to play,” Zimmerman said. “I think we have a great situation, and it’s getting better and better each year. They supposedly said they want to get something done by Opening Day. We’ll see if it does work. If it doesn’t, that’s why I have my agent. I don’t worry about that stuff.
“If [I received a multiyear deal], it would be a great thing. I think we are getting closer and closer every time we talk. It’s a good process. It’s fun.”
Zimmerman is coming off an injury-riddled 2008 season in which he played in only 106 games because of injuries to his left shoulder and right hand. He hit .283 with 14 home runs and 51 RBIs after collecting 201 RBIs over the previous two seasons.
Manager Manny Acta is one person who wants Zimmerman on his team for a long time. Acta took notice that Zimmerman is in the best shape of his life.
“He worked very hard,” Acta said. “You could tell in his face. There is no more baby fat around him.”
Zimmerman said that he decided not to travel as much this offseason. When he is on the road, he tends not to eat right.
“I did the same stuff I always did [in terms of working out],” Zimmerman said. “I didn’t travel that much. When you travel, it’s hard to eat well. I got to start working a little bit earlier, because I didn’t have to rehab anything. I went after it.”
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.