Grapefruit Getaway: Dunn and Nationals try to get the ball rolling

Stew editor Kevin Kaduk is in Florida this week, visiting the camps that Dave Brown didn't hit. 'Duk's swing continued Monday with a trip to Space Coast Stadium in Viera to see the Nats.

G'day from near Melbourne, mates!

If you've ever wondered if big league ballplayers find some of these spring training exercises as silly as we do, the look on Ivan Rodriguez's(notes) face tells you all you need to know. After 19 great seasons, why should Pudge have to budge a heavy medicine ball in the Florida sun?

Because witnessing Adam Dunn(notes) struggle to handle a weighty sphere near the end of an early March workout allows hack writers like yours truly to draw lame parallels between the plights of both Sisyphus and Our Washington Nationals! C'mon, I-Rod!

Surely it's not that hard to see Dunn as MLB's reigning King of Corinth. The big guy has only been on a team that finished north of .500 once in his nine seasons and even that was only after a short 44-game stint with a 2008 D'Backs squad that went 82-80.

Dunn is hoping that Washington can reverse its fortunes, but when I asked if a first good step would be moving toward the Nats' first .500 season since their inaugural run in D.C., he quickly waved off that line of thinking. Not that Dunn doesn't want to rack up more victories — a .500 season would be a 22-game improvement from last year's 59-win debacle — he just doesn't understand why everyone places such a large emphasis on the mid-level water line.

"The .500 mark, to me, is so overrated," Dunn said after Monday's workout. "So you play 162 games and you finish 81 and 81, so what? How can you just reach that point and be happy? I want to win. And everyone in here is on the same page with that."

Dunn sat at home in the offseason and watched as GM Mike Rizzo made a host of moves — from signing Jason Marquis(notes) to improve the rotation to adding future Hall of Fame backstop Ivan Rodriguez — designed to improve the squad. The additions have brought a lot of the usual smiley headlines (and a 76-win projection from PECOTA) to spring, but Dunn has been around long enough to know that early optimism doesn't always add up in the end.

"We still have to go out and make the front office look good for making these signings," Dunn said. "Obviously we're better on paper, but paper doesn't win games."

But paper does beat rock and Sisyphus never tried that trick. Perhaps it'll one day work for Dunn.

* * *

A large "We're On Our Way" banner hangs on the front of Space Coast Stadium and the drafting of top pick Stephen Strasburg(notes) (above) played a big part in formulating that slogan. I had hoped to see Strasburg save a newborn baby and a beagle puppy from a burning building, but it was just my luck to visit camp on a non-throwing day.

Instead I had to settle for Strasburg's brief visit atop the hill as a prop for a catcher's throwing drill and then watch him hang out behind a protective screen in short center for about two hours of batting practice. I'd say that I hope he was wearing sunscreen, but in Washington's camp, he is the sun, the center of Washington's solar system.

* * *

Here's Pudge doing that aforementioned catching drill. A lot of activity during Monday's workout revolved around Rodriguez and it seems like a lot of the Nationals are happy to have a future Hall of Famer wearing their uniform, even if he's on the down side of his career.

* * *

Chin up, Ryan Zimmerman(notes)! Playing another year with the Nats won't be that depressing.

Oh, you were actually just looking down at an equipment bag when I snapped this photograph so I could crop away its context and use it for my own nefarious purposes? Carry on, then!

* * *

That's not to say that the Nationals don't have to take some extreme measures in ensuring that some players don't make a break for it. Putting Colin Balester on a leash after one escape attempt works just fine.

* * *

The old heave-ho! In case you were wondering, Dunn was able to master that ball several times during the heavy ball workout that he described to his teammates as "four minutes of love." Whether or not the Nats will be as successful in chucking away their weighty label as basement dwellers remains to be seen, but check back later today for more from Space Camp.

BLS editor Kevin Kaduk is currently on a weeklong tour of spring training camps in Florida. To ride shotgun, follow him at @bigleaguestew.