The high-stakes, deal-or-no-deal talks between Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals will dominate the day at Nationals spring training. Zimmerman’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, left Viera on Thursday night as planned, without a contract extension for Zimmerman finalized (and, apparently, after having dinner with client Drew Storen).
It seems the money is not a sticky issue – and, given Zimmerman’s willingness to negotiate the winter after his worst year since 2008, that makes sense. The Nationals have been aware of the cost it would take to sign Zimmerman for some time. Rather, the hurdles revolve around other contract language, particularly the no-trade protection.
Van Wagenen leaving town by no means dooms the deal. The issue is time – the sides have less than 24 hours before hitting Zimmerman’s self-imposed deadline to table talks until winter. We’ll see what happens today – I really have no gut feeling one way or the other.
With Zimmerman’s situation hovering over the start of the Nationals’ spring, here are some leftover notes from Thursday:
>>> In his first spring training as Nationals manager, Davey Johnson has taken his turn at an annual chore for Nationals coaches: trying to slow down closer Drew Storen during his bullpen sessions.
On Thursday, Johnson walked up to Storen about seven minutes into Storen’s seven-minute bullpen session. Storen had cursed at himself a few times. Johnson wanted to calm him down.
“I don’t care about the first 40 games,” Johnson told Storen, referring to the Grapefruit League schedule. “You don’t need to prove anything to me.”
The Nationals have been trying to keep Storen under control in early-season bullpen sessions since his rookie year. Storen admitted it’s probably not going to happen.
“I could probably throw five pitches, and they’d probably still tell me to slow down, just because they know my intensity,” Storen said. “I don’t have a chill gear. I don’t throw casual bullpens. I’m going to get heated up if I miss a spot. Even if it’s my second bullpen, I want to throw perfect. That’s kind of how I’m wired. But one minute I’m mad at myself, the next minute I’m laughing. I think they see that.”
Storen almost always makes a small mechanical change or two during his side sessions. “He’s kind of a tinkerer, tinkering with this, tinkering with that,” Johnson said. “I guess that’s the Stanford in him.”
On Thursday, he worked on his straight-legged slide step by altering the position of his left foot when he stands on the rubber. Storen began his bullpen session with his left foot parallel with his right foot, how you imagine most pitchers stand. Midway through, he placed his left foot so the toes were in front of his right foot, and it slanted roughly 45 degrees, pointed toward shortstop.
The slight difference allowed Storen to stay balanced in his delivery and not swing open too much with his straight-legged slide step. By starting his foot partially rotated, it allowed him more control and twisted his upper body less.
“I was trying to over-think it,” Storen said. “At the end, I figured it out. By the end, it was perfect. It’s just making a change even though, a lot of times, I don’t need to change it. That’s the fun thing about spring training. You have time to work on that stuff.”
>>> Reliever Henry Rodriguez, who arrived late because of an excused absence, participated in his first spring training workout Thursday. He’ll throw his first bullpen session of the spring today, Johnson said.
>>> Left-handed prospect Sammy Solis, the Nationals’ second-round draft pick in 2010, is behind the rest of the pitchers at accelerated minor league camp, General Manager Mike Rizzo said. Solis experienced shoulder issues at the Arizona Fall League and for a time, the Nationals worried he may need Tommy John surgery.
“He had a full battery of tests, and there was a little bit of a difference of opinion in the doctors,” Rizzo said. “We had him rest for the winter, shut him down. And we’re going to ramp him and see what happens.”
>>> Minor league first baseman Tyler Moore, the Nationals’ 2010 minor league player of the year, will play both first and outfield this spring. Moore lost several pounds in anticipation of the new assignment. Moore, 25, has not played above Class AA Harrisburg and is not considered an elite prospect, but it’s hard to ignore a player who slugged 62 home runs over the past two seasons.
FROM THE POST
The Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman have 24 hours to clear major hurdles in their effort to reach a contract extension before Zimmerman’s Saturday morning deadline.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL