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Ryan Zimmerman on disappointing season, Nationals’ organization, Dusty Baker + more

It was a frustrating season for Ryan Zimmerman and the Nationals, but the 32-year-old infielder stressed the positives in a press conference before Game 5 of the NLDS.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Zimmerman has three years and $46M left on the 6-year/$100M extension he signed with the Washington Nationals in 2012, and there’s a club option for 2020 at $18M or a $2M buyout.

Zimmerman, 32, is coming off a .218/.272/.370, 18 double, 15 home run, -1.3 fWAR campaign in 2016 in his 12th major league season.

He played in 115 games total, up from 61 and 95 in the previous two seasons, but it wasn’t an easy one for the veteran infielder, who struggled to get it together at the plate.

Throughout it all, Zimmerman told reporters before Game 5 of the NLDS, his manager had his back.

“Our dialogue all year was really good, I think,” Zimmerman said. “He continually called me in there and would say, "Hey, man, I have faith in you, keep going, keep working. You're hitting the ball well. You're just having bad luck, or whatever you want to call it."

“I think that's one of his strengths as a manager is to keep his guys up, trust his guys.

“He's going to have your back no matter what. But at the same time, I'm frustrated because I want to perform for him.

“I think this year, it's one of the hardest years I've ever had. But as a team, it was one of the greatest years I've ever had. So I think that made it a little bit easier for me.”

Though Zimmerman struggled throughout the regular season, in the postseason, he went 6 for 17 (.353/.450/.471) with two doubles, three walks and three Ks in 20 plate appearances.

Before Game 5 of the NLDS with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dusty Baker talked about how the position the Nationals found themselves in, in first place for most of the summer, allowed him to stick with Zimmerman while the first baseman struggled.

“I was confident that this moment would come where everybody wanted me to kind of sit him down, but you can't get it by sitting down,” Baker explained.

“You can only get it by playing. Fortunately, for us, we had enough lead where we could wait on him to this point. I think his experience is going to help big time, especially his demeanor, if nothing else, because you really can't tell when this guy's shaken.

“You can't tell when he's down. You really can't tell when he's happy. He's probably the most consistent-personality guy that I've been around in a while.”

Zimmerman joked that he received support from some of the writers covering the team, who pointed out things like his exit velocity.

“A bunch of you guys told me about that,” Zimmerman laughed. “I have no idea what all that stuff means.”

“That's baseball,” he said.

“I mean, I'm a pretty streaky hitter; I always have been. I've never really gotten to great starts, and come June, July, August, sometime around then, I would usually kick it into gear. This year for some reason, it never really happened.”

“Baseball is a funny sport, man,” the Nationals’ 2005 1st Round pick told reporters.

“You know, it tests you mentally, it tests you physically and you just have to keep going. There's nothing else you can do.

“Just keep going out there and doing your work and hope that something clicks and you get hot for a little while.”

Zimmerman did say he took one lesson away from the 2016 campaign. As he explained, Baker did a good job of keeping everyone sharp and, more importantly, healthy, as well as he could.

“I mean, I think Dusty did a good job of mixing Clint [Robinson] in all year long,” Zimmerman said.

“Clint's a good player and he deserves to get some at-bats.

“You know, moving forward, I think you realize you can't play 155, 160 games every year. It's just not -- the game has changed so much. It's so much different now; that taking those days off and letting the other guys play, not only to help you, but to keep them sharp, is kind of the way the sport is going, I think.”

Though the Nationals experienced another postseason disappointment, Zimmerman said before the Game 5 loss that he’s proud of what the organization has become.

“I mean, you make the playoffs three out of five years,” he said. “The other two years you're kind of right in the mix, win 95 games three years. Obviously taking that next step in the playoffs and the ultimate step would be kind of the cherry on top, but I think you know, baseball is all about consistency and being able to compete each year, and ultimately try and make the playoffs.

“Once you get into the playoffs, you need a couple lucky breaks. You need to get hot. You need to play well. But you know, if you would have told me ten years ago that the last five years would have gone the way that they have gone, I think it's pretty impressive how quickly this organization has gotten there, and with the farm system we have and the young players coming up, I don't see anything changing in the near future.”