Joe Maddon hugged Anthony Rizzo, shared an in-game microphone with Kris Bryant, slapped hands with the Cubs’ mascot and drew a warm reception from the Chicago fans at Sloan Park.
As if he’d never been away at all.
The manager who guided the Cubs to an elusive World Series championship in 2016 and parted ways with the team after last season returned on Monday, now guiding the Los Angeles Angels.
The mini-reunion came during at a spring training exhibition, with a split-squad of Cubs topping the Angels 9-4.
“It’s very comfortable,” Maddon said before the game. “You talk about wonderful memories, it was five years, but it was a very eventful five years. There’s nothing to lament, it was wonderful. It was life-altering for me and my family to be part of this organization.”
The Angels and Cubs don’t meet in the regular season, so the short trip from Tempe to Mesa provided Maddon a chance to meet old pals.
Maddon was embraced by new Cubs manager David Ross, who retired as a player after the Cubs beat Cleveland to end their 108-year World Series drought.
The Cubs averaged 94 wins per season during Maddon’s tenure, and made the playoffs in the first four. Last year, after Maddon’s contract was not extended following an early playoff exit, Chicago slumped to 84-78, missed the postseason and the Cubs front office moved on from Maddon.
Maddon ended up back with the organization where he spent most of his previous time in the game, including as a coach on the Angels’ 2002 World Series winners.
“Stuff happens along the way,” Maddon said. “Eventually it’s for the best that you do something else. It’s good for you and for them. There’s nothing adversarial. I just texted Theo (Epstein, Cubs president) and we’ll try to get together.”
“The method of the world today is everyone’s looking for adversarial. It’s not. We won together, it was a great moment,” he said.
Maddon teamed up with Bryant and Rizzo during the game, all three of them wired together on microphones to talk at the same time during the ESPN telecast.
“Last year we went off the rails a little bit. But we don’t win 95-plus games without a real good method in place and really good players. I don’t take it personally. I like change. It’s got to be for all the right reasons,” Maddon said.
Elsewhere around the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues:
REDS 6, DODGERS 2
David Price struck out three of the four batters he retired in 1 1/3 innings of his spring debut with the Dodgers. Price, acquired with Mookie Betts from Boston in a recent trade, appeared for the first time since undergoing wrist surgery in September to help improve his circulation and is throwing pain-free. Betts doubled and Matt Beaty homered.
Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray gave up a home run in 2 2/3 innings, walking two and giving up three hits. Trevor Bauer worked three innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. Freddy Galvis doubled and is hitting .500.
RANGERS 3, INDIANS 2
Kyle Gibson allowed a hit and a walk over two scoreless innings in his start for the Rangers. Kolby Allard fanned five, scattered four hits and walked one over three innings of relief. Robinson Chirinos singled and doubled.
Franmil Reyes, obtained from San Diego in last year’s trade for Trevor Bauer, doubled. Jean Carlos Mejia started and gave up two hits and a walk while striking out a pair over two innings.
CUBS (SS) 9, ANGELS 4
Kyle Hendricks pitched three hitless innings for the Cubs. Ian Happ homered and Kyle Schwarber doubled and drove in three runs.
Tommy La Stella homered for the Angels. Julio Teheran worked two perfect innings in the start and struck out two. Matt Andriese worked three innings, giving up an earned run on four hits, striking out three.
PADRES 3, WHITE SOX 1
The Padres won their seventh straight exhibition game. Chris Paddack gave up an infield single, a bloop single and a walk over three innings. Craig Stammen worked a scoreless inning but gave up his first hit in three spring innings. Brian Dozier and Abraham Almonte each had two hits.
Dallas Keuchel was extended to four innings in the start, allowing six hits but just one run. Alex Colome gave up three hits and a run in an inning of relief. Eloy Jimenez singled and doubled.
GIANTS 8, DIAMONDBACKS 1
Zach Green hit a three-run homer. Jeff Samardzija allowed a home run over his three-inning start for San Francisco and Andrew Triggs struck out the side in an inning of relief.
Merrill Kelly struck out three in 2 2/3 innings. Tim Locastro singled and doubled, Ketel Marte hit a double and John Hicks homered.
ROCKIES 9, MARINERS 6
Jon Gray worked two scoreless innings for Colorado. Ryan McMahon and Sam Hilliard homered.
Justus Sheffield struck out four and gave up a home run over his three innings. Wei-Yin Chen allowed four runs on five hits, including two home runs, and two walks in 1 1/3 innings. Top outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic hit his first home run of the spring. Kyle Seager and Evan White both doubled.
BLUE JAYS 4, PIRATES 0
Matt Shoemaker struck out five and allowed one hit over 2 2/3 innings in his first start since tearing his left ACL during a rundown on April 21. Marc Rzepczynski and Rafael Dolis each worked a perfect inning in a three-hitter. Danny Jansen homered and Derek Fisher and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. doubled. Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller gave up three runs and three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
RED SOX 11, TIGERS 11
Top Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec hit his first home run of spring training, a three-run drive. Marcus Wilson and Connor Wang also homered for Boston. Travis Demeritte homered twice and had five RBIs for Detroit. Ryan Weber struck out six in three innings. Daniel Norris allowed four runs and six hits in two innings.
RAYS 3, ORIOLES 3
Charlie Morton allowed two hits in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Trying to earn a bullpen job for Tampa Bay, Peter Fairbanks walked one and struck out two in an inning of relief.
CARDINALS 6, TWINS 1
Genesis Cabrera gave up one hit, two walks and struck out one over a one-inning start. Roel Ramirez, acquired from Tamoa Bay in the Tommy Pham trade, got six straight outs. Johan Oviedo marked his 22nd birthday with two perfect innings. Rangel Ravelo singled and doubled. Twins prospect Royce Lewis doubled, a day after his first homer. Devin Smeltzer gave up an earned run and five hits over two innings.
NATIONALS 3, MARLINS 2
Joe Ross’ streak of 10 straight batters retired to start spring snapped training ended when Matt Joyce singled in the second inning. Ross has pitched five scoreless innings. Daniel Hudson allowed two runs and three hits in one inning. Adrián Sanchez homered. Miami’s Pablo López walked three and allowed one run and one hit in three innings.