PHOENIX — Andre Ethier heard the whispers all winter.
About how the Dodgers were shopping him. How they could trade him to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields. Or sign Michael Bourn and move Matt Kemp to right field, making him expendable.
But as these rumors swirled, Ethier said he remained calm.
Earlier in the off-season, he had heard directly from General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Don Mattingly, who both assured him he wasn’t being shopped.
Ethier had even heard from the Dodgers’ chairman, Mark Walter, who sent him a text message telling him he was part of their plans.
“I know the rumors kept continuing, but that was enough to ease my mind,” Ethier said. “They said, ‘That’s not our intention. It isn’t coming from us.’ I guess that’s why it didn’t really bother me.”
Ethier didn’t want to be traded, not when the Dodgers were suddenly flush with cash and adding All-Star-caliber players to their roster.
“I want to be a part of that,” said Ethier, who signed a five-year, $85-million contract extension last season.
The two-time All-Star came to spring training this year as something of a forgotten man. With Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez in the middle of the lineup, Ethier frequently batted sixth in the final five weeks of last season. He could be in a similar role this year.
But Ethier pointed out the benefits of being part of such a loaded lineup, noting that he and Kemp wouldn’t be asked to carry a disproportionate amount of the offensive load as they have in past seasons.
“You don’t have to take a chance on a certain count or an at-bat,” he said.
Although Mattingly hinted late last season that Ethier could become a platoon player — he batted .222 against left-handed pitchers last year — he has backed off that idea, as manager and player have maintained their public stance that Ethier should be able to hit anyone.
Ethier said he wants to play as many games as possible.
“That’s the goal every year coming in, going out there and playing as many games as you can,” he said.
In what was arguably his best offensive season, in 2009, Ethier played 160 games. He hit 31 home runs and drove in 106 runs that year, both career bests.
He said he has reported to camp in better condition than he has in recent years, a byproduct of his not having to rehabilitate any injuries. Before the 2011 season, he was strengthening a pinkie finger that was broken. Before last season, he was recovering from a minor knee operation.
“I got a quick start to strength phase of what I usually do,” he said.
Carl Crawford took batting practice on the field, something he hadn’t done since he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in August.
“It felt good to be back out there,” said Crawford, who was part of a hitting group that included Kemp, Ramirez and Ethier.
Although Crawford said he felt rusty, Mattingly liked what he saw.
“Carl was good,” Mattingly said. “I was really surprised.”
The star of batting practice was 22-year-old Cuban prospect Yasiel Puig, who drew oohs from onlookers. Almost everything the promising-but-unpolished outfielder hit was hard and on the line, including several deep home runs.
Chris Capuano was shagging balls in left field while Puig was hitting and acknowledged, “I moved out of the way a couple of times instead of catching him. I mean, he was hitting the ball hard. You can definitely see the raw power.”