Dodgers manager glad Shohei Ohtani is set to break silence

AP photo by Ashley Landis / Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani holds a bat in the dugout during the first inning of an exhibition game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
AP photo by Ashley Landis / Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani holds a bat in the dugout during the first inning of an exhibition game against the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.

LOS ANGELES — MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani plans to speak to the media Monday for the first time since the illegal gambling and theft allegations involving the Los Angeles Dodgers' new addition and his interpreter emerged during the team's trip to South Korea.

The interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was fired by the Dodgers last week when the team opened MLB's 2024 regular season with two games against the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts endorsed Ohtani addressing the matter publicly, saying the 29-year-old from Japan made his own decision to do so.

"It's the right thing to do," Roberts said. "I'm happy he's going to speak, and speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it will give us all a little bit more clarity."

Mizuhara was let go from the team after reports from the Los Angeles Times and ESPN about his alleged ties to an illegal bookmaker and claims from Ohtani's attorneys that the Japanese star had been the victim of a "massive theft."

Major League Baseball has opened an investigation of the matter. The Internal Revenue Service has confirmed that Mizuhara and Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookmaker in Orange County, California, are under criminal investigation.

Will Ireton, the team's performance operations manager, has taken over translation duties for Ohtani. He previously did the same for Kenta Maeda, who is Japanese, when he was a pitcher for the Dodgers.

Ohtani made only a brief appearance in the clubhouse before Sunday's Freeway Series opener against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels from nearby Anaheim. The teams are playing three exhibition games before the Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals in their home opener on Thursday.

Ohtani was cheered loudly by the crowd of 42,607 each time he came to the plate for his first game as a Dodger in his home stadium. As the designated hitter, he went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout before leaving.

He's also expected to play Monday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Anaheim, where he was a two-time American League MVP before leaving the Angels as a free agent to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers in December.

Roberts said Ohtani has not addressed his teammates as a group.

"I think that he's had one-off conversations with players," Roberts said.

The manager said he checked in with Ohtani to see how he's doing: "He's kind of business as usual."

Ohtani has a double locker in the clubhouse located between the shower room and fellow Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is slated to make his second start of the season on Saturday against St. Louis.

Extra security was posted in the jammed clubhouse on Sunday. Besides the players and a horde of media, eight temporary lockers were set up at one end for minor leaguers brought over from Arizona for the games with the Angels.

Overhead televisions were tuned to NCAA men's basketball tournament games, baseball and horse racing, with former Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca offering TV handicapping tips on the day's races.

The MLB gambling policy is posted in every clubhouse. Betting on baseball, legally or not, is punishable with a one-year ban from the sport. The penalty for betting on other sports illegally is at the commissioner's discretion. Sports gambling is illegal in California, even as 38 states and the District of Columbia allow some form of it.

"The mood in the room is get ready for baseball because I don't hear a lot of conversations and speculation," Roberts said. "That's why I think tomorrow is going to be good for everyone."

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