Nats, Zimmerman continue to talk; Rizzo “hopeful” of deal

VIERA, Fla. - Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday that he continues to be engaged in talks with Ryan Zimmerman and his representatives in hopes of hammering out a contract extension before the third baseman’s Saturday deadline for a deal.

“We continue to talk and have discussions,” Rizzo said. “His agent (Brodie Van Wagenen) is in town, so that makes it easier.”

Zimmerman has said that he wants a deal in place by the time full-squad workouts begin Saturday or discussions will be halted so he can concentrate fully on baseball.

Rizzo, who is trying to extend the current five-year, $45 million deal that runs through 2013 remains optimistic that the two sides can come to an agreement.

“I’m hopeful we can get something done. Both sides want to get something done. Hopefully, we can get something done,” Rizzo said.

Zimmerman’s teammates are equally interested in the pace of the negotiations and admire the way the third baseman has handled a delicate situation. Zimmerman has said that it’s unfair to his teammates who are preparing for the season to extend talks past Saturday, when the focus should be elsewhere.

“When you think of the Washington Nationals, you think of Ryan Zimmerman,” said left fielder Michael Morse. “I think he means a lot to this organization (and) I think this organization means a lot to him. I think Zim wants to see this organization build and become a winning ballclub, that’s first and foremost. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t care about the extension thing, but he cares a lot. He wants to win, he wants to make sure that we’re going in the right direction - and we are. He wants to be here, that’s for sure.”

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