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Maddon orchestrates Dex-tra special surprise

Announces Fowler signing during workout 'moment'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs players have learned that Joe Maddon is full of surprises, so when the manager called everyone to gather around the pitcher's mound on Field 6 on Thursday and to not look back at the team's complex, they weren't sure what to expect.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein gave Anthony Rizzo a heads-up that Thursday would be a day to remember.

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs players have learned that Joe Maddon is full of surprises, so when the manager called everyone to gather around the pitcher's mound on Field 6 on Thursday and to not look back at the team's complex, they weren't sure what to expect.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein gave Anthony Rizzo a heads-up that Thursday would be a day to remember.

Cubs sign Fowler to 1-year deal

"I ran into Theo and he said, 'Hey, I've got a surprise for you guys,'" Rizzo said. "When someone says a 'surprise' you're thinking an elephant or a giraffe -- you don't know. That was the last thing on my mind or anyone's mind. And Dexter rolls in."

Tweet from @Cubs: #Cubs fans ... If this doesn't make your day, check your pulse! @DexterFowler is back: https://t.co/VMMrdz7Rs6https://t.co/D6xYCHu403

While the players were gathered on the mound, Epstein escorted Dexter Fowler onto the field. The free agent was returning to the Cubs after signing a one-year, $8 million contract.

"Joe said we were going to have a 'moment,' and I thought for sure he was bringing in some circus animal or some type of weird magician doing something or some type of trick, and it was Dex," Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel said. "It was awesome."

Video: Fowler discusses decision to sign with the Cubs

It took some planning. Fowler had driven from Las Vegas to Phoenix on Wednesday to undergo a physical. The outfielder, who turns 30 next month, had rejected the Cubs' $15.8 million qualifying offer last November, and there were reports he was headed to the Orioles with a three-year deal.

"When I read it the other day, and heard about it the other day, I was ready to text him and congratulate him," Maddon said of the rumored deal. "And then I was told not to do that. So I didn't."

Tweet from @Cubs: Hey, @DexterFowler. Welcome back. #LetsGo pic.twitter.com/kya8LOU8cI

Maddon asked the coaches to gather everyone after they had completed defensive drills. As the players and staff gathered around the mound, Maddon said they were "going to have a moment here." He had to stall a little, and got an assist from Javier Baez, who innocently asked about a charity event when players will get their heads shaved. Then coach Dave Martinez talked a little.

"I thought we were going to mess with [Munenori] Kawasaki, I didn't know what was going on," catcher David Ross said. "I thought [Fowler] stopped by to say goodbye. I gave Dex a hug and told him, 'Man, I'm going to miss you.' Everybody was looking around, dumbfounded."

Dexter was greeted by bear hugs from Rizzo, Ross, Jason Heyward, and others.

"I anticipated a strong reaction from our guys," Maddon said, "but that was stronger than I anticipated."

Video: MLB Now breaks down Fowler's contract with the Cubs

Rizzo had sent Fowler a text Wednesday to congratulate him about the Orioles deal.

"I actually congratulated him because he didn't have to file for unemployment," Rizzo said. "I'm super excited to have him back. He's one of my favorite guys last year on this team. It's a great addition for us."

Said Ross: "I don't know that one guy didn't have a smile on his face today. Looking around, I saw a lot of happy guys on the team."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

 

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez, Dexter Fowler, Jason Hammel, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, David Ross