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Maddon thrilled by Cubs' 'unique' camaraderie

Skipper: Players are 'becoming even better human beings just by interacting with each other'
Special to MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon was happy overall with how camp went for his team this spring.

He was most pleased with the way the team has jelled.

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon was happy overall with how camp went for his team this spring.

He was most pleased with the way the team has jelled.

"The camaraderie, the coming together of the group," Maddon said. "Four years together now, really unique. A unique camp in the way that the guys interacted, meaning they're getting together as a group, talking about subjects outside of baseball. They're becoming even better human beings just by interacting with each other.

"I have nothing to do with it, nothing. It's about them. I really like the empowerment that I think our players feel from our office, the manager's office, the coaches, as well as the front office. It's a unique situation as far as I'm concerned. I don't know if it exists anywhere else. This is the first time I've felt it to this level here. So I'm most pleased with the interaction of the group. … They care about one another, and it's really impressive to watch that."

But there were also downsides, mostly of the automotive variety.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I got a 1985 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon, [and] I couldn't get the air conditioning fixed," Maddon said. "Eventually by the end of it, I did. So I had to drive the rental car and not my car for maybe two weeks of the camp, which was kind of a bummer, because I got this great stereo system also. So that may have been the worst part about camp.

"The other part was the RV itself [which Maddon lives in during Spring Training]. I had to get people coming out to repair the RV, like the [heating system] was not working right, my TV went out, the heated floors were an issue. That was the worst part about camp."

Quintana ready
Left-hander Jose Quintana made his final tuneup before the regular season on Tuesday against the Red Sox. He went three scoreless innings, giving up two hits as the Cubs lost, 4-2.

"I felt pretty good out there," Quintana said.

Video: CHC@BOS: Quintana picks off Vazquez in the 2nd

Maddon had said on Monday he expected Quintana to go four innings, throwing about 60 pitches. But the lefty went just three innings, with 35 pitches, 24 for strikes. The shorter-than-expected outing was not health-related, though.

"After the third, [Maddon] said, 'How do you feel?'" Quintana said. "'I'm good.' He said, 'Alright, that's it.'"

Strop update
Right-hander Pedro Strop pitched a scoreless fifth inning on Tuesday, allowing one hit. His spring debut had been delayed until last Thursday by a tender left calf and the flu. Overall, Strop didn't allow any runs or walks over his three spring appearances, with one hit and two strikeouts over three innings. Maddon wanted to see him in a game one more time before the season starts on Thursday.

HIP, hip, hooray
Maddon was also happy to share the news that his charitable foundation, the Hazleton Integration Project (HIP), based in his hometown of Hazleton, Penn., is one of 10 national winners of The Renewal Project, which recognizes "local organizations driving positive change in their communities and bringing progress to the country."

"HIP repurposed a former Catholic school building to create the Hazleton One Community Center," according to The Renewal Project website. The facility provides "a central location to create productive opportunities for economically disadvantaged children. These kids participate in a variety of no-cost or low-cost educational, cultural, and athletic activities."

Tweet from @TheRenewalProj: Congratulations #RenewalAwards winners @Hazleton_1, @YEPNOLA @LITEMemphis, @ConMiMADRE, @anewamicrobiz! Thank you for empowering youth and their families in communities across America. pic.twitter.com/lJ3Ld7frFE

"It's the prestige in knowing that we are heading in the right direction and we are making a difference," Maddon said.

Up next
The Cubs have an off-day Wednesday before Opening Day on Thursday, when they will face the Marlins in Miami at 11:40 a.m. CT. Left-hander Jon Lester is scheduled to make his third Opening Day start for the Cubs after getting the nod in 2015 and '17. Lester faced the Marlins once last season, at Marlins Park, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts over seven innings to earn the win. Right-hander Jose Urena will start for Miami. Watch every regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs, Jose Quintana, Pedro Strop