Zimmermann talks contract negotiations, Purke talks about his health

VIERA, Fla. - Greetings from the so-called “Panera Bureau” here in Viera, a popular spot for beat writers looking to grab a bite while working.

If you’re in town in the next couple weeks and swing by the local Panera around lunch time, you’re bound to see a couple of us pounding away on our laptops. If I make fewer than 15 appearances in here during my time in Viera, I’ll be shocked.

Jordan Zimmermann has been in town for a handful of days now, even though he technically doesn’t have the terms of a contract in place for the 2013 season. Eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career, Zimmermann is under the Nationals’ control through the 2015 campaign, but he has yet to settle on a deal for this year.

The Nationals and the right-hander are strictly talking about a one-year contract at this point, and are not in negotiations on a long-term deal. But there are still obstacles to reaching terms before the two sides need to present their cases to an arbiter.

“We’ll see what happens,” Zimmermann said after a throwing session today. “The case is Feb. 19, so it’s creeping up on us. We’ve got a few things to work out yet, and we’ll see what happens.”

Zimmermann is seeking $5.8 million for the 2013 season, while the Nationals have countered with $4.6 million. Zimmermann declined to say whether the midpoint of the two numbers would be an acceptable option, but did indicate that the two sides have gotten a little closer since we last talked to him at NatsFest.

“There’s been a little progress, but like I said, we’re ready to go (to arbitration),” Zimmermann said. “If we need to go, we’ll go, but we’ll see what happens.”

In addition to all the big league pitchers in camp already, a trio of minor leaguers who dealt with injuries last season are here, as well. Lucas Giolito (Tommy John surgery), Sammy Solis (Tommy John surgery) and Matt Purke (shoulder surgery) all could be spotted around the minor league fields this morning.

While Giolito is in the early stages of his rehab and just started throwing from short distances recently, Solis is nearly a year removed from his surgery and is closing in on full strength.

Same goes for Purke, who told me today that he feels completely healthy after a lost 2012 season in which he only appeared in three minor league games.

Purke, the Nationals’ third-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, had surgery on his left shoulder last August to relieve bursitis and get rid of some scar tissue. He spent the offseason rehabbing and said today he enters camp feeling like he’s in good shape physically.

“I’m excited to actually play baseball,” Purke said with a smile. “I’m excited to feel normal.”

If he can prove that he can stay healthy, Purke could give the Nationals another talented arm that could be ready for the majors in a couple seasons. He is, after all, a lefty that can throw in the low to mid-90s and went 16-0 with 3.02 ERA in 20 games (18 starts) his freshman season at TCU, with a whopping 142 strikeouts and 34 walks in 116 1/3 innings.

First, however, comes that “if”. Purke has to get through spring training, and this season, healthy.

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