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Cubs’ big top returns to Camp Maddon

A shirtless Danny Mueller does a quick dance on the dunk tank platform before awaiting his splash.

MESA, Ariz. — After weeks of questions and widespread consternation from almost everyone manager Joe Maddon ran into this spring, the circus finally arrived Sunday at Cubs camp.

Strength coach/sideshow director Tim Buss had a carnival dunk tank waiting on the agility field behind the clubhouse when players went outside for their morning stretch.

After Buss’ brief introduction and explanation to the group, assistant clubhouse manager Danny Mueller climbed shirtless to the platform and mocked the non-player personnel who took turns — at Buss’ selection — to throw softballs at the target.

Eventually, coaching-staff assistant Juan Cabreja dropped Mueller — to the apparent delight of the crowd of players.

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‘‘What I really enjoyed was the fact that the machine worked,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And [Cabreja] taking only two throws indicated what a great batting-practice pitcher he is. It was really fun.’’

Maddon finally gave Buss the green light to break up the mid-spring monotony and promised more to come.

Whether a needed respite for some serious campers or just another in a long line of Buss-inspired spring distractions under Maddon, the spectacle showed Maddon doesn’t plan to change his methods, regardless of what kind of ‘‘reckoning’’ awaits for a team with more to prove and a manager without a contract after this season.

<em>This dunk tank showed up Sunday in Mesa</em>.
This dunk tank showed up Sunday in Mesa.

‘‘Bussy’s having his best year,’’ said Maddon, who nominated Buss for a show on the Cubs’ new TV network. ‘‘Bussy, for me, is at that level where if you want him to replace [Jimmy] Fallon or [Jimmy] Kimmel, I think he’s on the verge of being able to do that.’’

Tribute to a friend

Players and staff wore T-shirts in memory of comedian Brody Stevens, a childhood friend of catching coach Mike Borzello and a friend to dozens of players, managers and coaches throughout the game, including many Cubs.

Stevens, who for years was candid and public about his battle with depression, committed suicide last month, just a few days before he was expected to be in Arizona for a few days with Cubs pals.

Players designed and ordered the T-shirts, which feature ‘‘Brody’’ across the front and include his beloved 818 area code and ‘‘#positivepush,’’ one of his trademark phrases.

‘‘It’s our meager way of supporting him and his family,’’ Maddon said.

Borzello and several other members of the team and staff plan to attend a celebration of Stevens’ life Monday at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles, where he regularly performed.

No time for Cedeno

Left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno, who was signed to a $900,000 deal as camp opened, has been shut down because of a strained pitching wrist.

Cedeno, who was playing catch when the soreness developed early in camp, is seven to 10 days away from restarting a throwing program and is expected to open the season on the disabled list.

This and that

Outfielder Mark Zagunis, who was scratched from the lineup Saturday because of soreness in his hand after being hit by a pitch Friday, said he felt better. He’s expected to return to the lineup this week.

• Right-hander Alec Mills, who was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday because of back stiffness, might be out longer than Zagunis. But the injury isn’t considered serious at this point.