- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

Zimmerman puts timetable on contract discussions

As the Washington Nationals prepare to move past an offseason filled with significant activity, they still don’t have a deal in place with their fixture at third base. But while the team sounded optimistic about the talks, Ryan Zimmerman said Saturday he won’t allow them to go past Monday.

Zimmerman said he doesn’t want negotiations on a long-term contract to continue into the season, out of respect for his teammates. And while acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday that team president Stan Kasten is still having daily conversations with Zimmerman’s agents, Brodie Van Wagenen and Casey Close, the Monday break makes the odds of getting a deal done this season somewhat remote.

“I don’t think it’s fair to any of the people in [the clubhouse] that I be worried about my contract when we’re trying to when games,” Zimmerman said. “I know they’ve been talking and doing some things, but I haven’t heard. We’ll find out.”

Kasten has been handling negotiations since general manager Jim Bowden resigned March 1.

Rizzo wouldn’t put a timetable on when the sides might agree to the long-term deal they’ve been working on for the better part of two years, but struck an optimistic tone about the nature of the discussions.

“We’re plugging away at it,” Rizzo said. “I think when both sides want to make a deal, a deal will be made. I believe both sides have great interest in making it happen.”

Zimmerman, 24, will make $3.325 million this season and has two more arbitration seasons after this one before he is eligible to become a free agent.

“If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I go out, hopefully have a great season and we go through it all again next offseason,” he said. “I’m to the point now where I’ve put my time in, I’m into the system. I have no problem with going out there and trusting my abilities.”

NATIONALS 5, ORIOLES 4

Josh Willingham’s first home game with the Nationals was impressive. The outfielder hit a grand slam in his first at-bat to put Washington up 4-0 and made a diving catch in foul territory in the sixth inning.

Shairon Martis struggled in his final spring tuneup, allowing 11 hits and throwing 90 pitches in six innings, though he gave up only three runs. Joel Hanrahan gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth - and nearly surrendered a three-run homer to Scott Moore before the ball hooked foul - but held on for the save.

- Ben Goessling

TEMPERATURE CHECK

AUSTIN KEARNS [UP]

Outfielder back in starting lineup after strong spring

JOSH WILLINGHAM [UP]

Grand slam and diving catch - not a bad first night at Nationals Park

JASON BERGMANN [DOWN]

0.00 ERA for spring isn’t good enough when you have minor league options

BY THE NUMBERS

3 Members of the Nationals’ seven-man bullpen who signed with the team in the offseason or this spring: Wil Ledezma, Julian Tavarez and Joe Beimel.

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Sunday: Off

Monday: at Marlins, 4:10 p.m.

Tuesday: at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.

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