Dodgers’ Mookie Betts Speaks Out on Ohtani Gambling Probe

Mookie Betts Shohei Ohtani

Getty Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts said that the gambling investigation into Shohei Ohtani's former interpreter is not a distraction for the team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will start their 2024 season a de facto second time with a cloud hanging over designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, as the MLB continues to investigate into his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. But Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts expressed confidence that the team is focused on winning games, not the MLB probe.

In an interview with TMZ Sports on March 28, Betts answered “no” several times to a question about whether the league’s investigation surrounding Ohtani is a distraction to the Dodgers.

“We’re just focused on business,” Betts said. “Taking care of business and that’s all we keep first.”

On March 20, The Los Angeles Times reported Ohtani’s attorneys accused Mizuhara of “engaging in a massive theft” of Ohtani’s money. Mizuhara was allegedly placing bets with book maker Mathew Bowyer. Bowyer is an Orange County resident who is under investigation for running the illegal bookmaking operation.

The MLB began investigating Mizuhara on March 22.

“Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei Mizuhara from the news media,” the MLB issued in a statement. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations (DOI) began their formal process investigating the matter.”

Ohtani and Mizuhara first met in 2013 during Ohtani’s rookie season with the Nippon-Ham Fighters. Mizuhara had been Ohtani’s interpreter for his entire MLB career.

Dodgers Fired Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Ippei Mizuhara

ESPN’s Tisha Thompson reported on March 20 that the Dodgers fired Mizuhara the same day as The Los Angeles Times reported Ohtani’s attorneys accused him of stealing the designated hitter’s money.

Thompson wrote the Dodgers fired Mizuhara because of questions “surrounding at least $4.5 million in wire transfers sent from Ohtani’s bank account to a bookmaking operation.”

Mizuhara reportedly incurred the gambling debt to Bowyer, who again, is under investigation for an unrelated incident.

Thompson reported that initially a spokesman for Ohtani told ESPN that the designated hitter transferred the funds himself to cover his interpreter’s gambling debt. Mizuhara then told his story in a 90-minute interview with ESPN.

However, the spokesman disavowed Mizuhara’s account of what happened. Ohtani’s lawyers then issued a statement.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities,” read the statement from Berk Brettler LLP.

Ohtani is entering his first season of a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers. The two-way superstar is recovering from an elbow ligament injury, so he is not expected to pitch in 2024.

But he will serve as Los Angeles’ designated hitter.

Mookie Betts, Dodgers Set to Restart 2024 Season

The Dodgers played their first two games of the 2024 season in Seoul, South Korea on March 20 and 21. They split the two-game set with the San Diego Padres.

Returning home to Los Angeles, the Dodgers then played a spring training series with the Los Angeles Angels. The Dodgers will host their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 28.

First pitch is set for 1:10 local time.

Betts will be able to help confirm the investigation surrounding Ohtani is not a distraction by setting the tone as the team’s leadoff hitter in the opener. Ohtani will bat second right behind Betts.

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