Nationals have come a long way in four years

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VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- The Washington Nationals came into spring training with all but one or two spots on their 25-man roster already set. They're also one of the preseason favorites to reach the World Series.

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper are two of the brightest young stars in the game, and veteran players like pitcher Dan Haren have said they signed with Washington in large part for the chance to win a championship.

For players like third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, the recent success of the defending National League East champions is appreciated much more because they were in Washington when the picture wasn't so rosy.

Zimmerman says the situation "was difficult, or frustrating. I guess those are two better words than bad."