Shohei Ohtani to speak Monday in wake of allegations against ex-interpreter


Shohei Ohtani’s silence will end Monday.

As reporters huddled around Ohtani’s new locker in the Dodgers home clubhouse Sunday, the two-time MVP emerged briefly before the team’s Freeway Series game against the Angels and said he would address reporters Monday.

A Dodgers public relations official later confirmed the plan, which would mark Ohtani’s first public comments since The Times first reported Thursday that he was allegedly the victim of a “massive theft” by his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

“I think it’s good,” manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s forthcoming availability — which the manager insisted was entirely the two-way star’s decision. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m happy he’s going to speak, speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it’ll give us a little bit more clarity.”

Since the Mizuhara story was reported, several questions have emerged that Ohtani and his representatives had notably left unanswered.

How did Ohtani feel about supposedly being betrayed by his longtime interpreter and close confidant?

How did he and his representatives fail to notice the transfer of reportedly $4.5 million, at least, from his accounts to an illegal Orange County bookmaking ring?

And why did one of his spokespeople orchestrate an ESPN interview last Tuesday for Mizuhara, as that outlet reported, in which Mizuhara claimed — and Ohtani’s spokesperson initially confirmed — that the Japanese star had actually paid off Mizuhara’s gambling debts, and not been allegedly swindled behind his back? (Both Mizuhara and the Ohtani spokesperson recanted that story a day later.)

Whether Monday brings any actual clarity remains to be seen.

While Ohtani is planning to speak with reporters, the amount of information he actually divulges could be limited. Currently, various parts of the scandal are being investigated by federal authorities, the Internal Revenue Service and Major League Baseball.

Players and team officials are typically wary of discussing situations under active investigation by either the league or law enforcement. And Ohtani has long had a reputation for prioritizing his personal privacy, even in baseball-related matters.

A tell-all news conference, this probably won’t be.

However, the nature of the allegations against Mizuhara — and the conflicting information that has surrounded the entire saga — has created an uncommon level of confusion among fans, media members and even Ohtani’s new teammates.

According to several members of the Dodgers who were granted anonymity, much of the team feels some sympathy for Ohtani, even if they are unsure of exactly what to make of the confounding story.

But many of them nonetheless experienced whiplash when the news first broke Thursday, after having been told a news story detailing Mizuhara’s initial account — that Ohtani had paid off Mizuhara’s debts, not been robbed of them — was what to expect the next morning.

Some also took note of reports that previously believed details of Mizuhara’s past were incorrect.

While Mizuhara’s biography in past Angels’ team media guides claimed he graduated from UC Riverside in 2007, the school told NBC LA that it had no record of him ever attending — an indication that Mizuhara potentially lied to Angels public relations staffers about his past as they compiled the annual directory.

On Friday, the Boston Red Sox also released a statement disputing media reports that Mizuhara had worked for the team as an interpreter for All-Star pitcher Hideki Okajima from 2008 to 2012.

“Mizuhara was never employed by the Boston Red Sox in any capacity and was not an interpreter for Hideki Okajima during the pitcher’s time with the team,” a team spokesperson said in a statement, according to MassLive.com.

Surprise has also been the prevailing mood in Ohtani’s old clubhouse with the Angels, where news of the scandal seemingly caught his former teammates off-guard.

“Yeah, we were just shocked,” Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak said before Sunday afternoon’s game. “Obviously, nobody here had any idea or inclination of anything [like that] going on, and we still don’t know what’s going on. We’re in the same boat as everybody else.”

Moniak said there was nothing about Mizuhara’s behavior in the clubhouse or on the field that would “stir up any questions” or raise suspicions about a gambling problem, but he acknowledged it would have been difficult for the Angels to know.

“I mean, people have personal lives,” Moniak said. “We come into the clubhouse, and we’re family here, and I’ve got my personal life back home. We spent a lot of time together, but there’s a divide between when you get to the field and when you go home, so none of us really knew what was going on.”

Back on the Dodgers’ side, Roberts said that while Ohtani has yet to address the team as a whole, he has “had one-off conversations with players.”

Roberts added that he hasn’t discussed the Mizuhara accusations with Ohtani directly, and that he had no hesitation about putting the $700-million offseason signing in the Dodgers lineup for Thursday’s domestic home opener.

“Just kind of checked in on him and seeing how he’s doing,” Roberts said of what he has discussed with Ohtani lately. “Everything that I’ve seen, he’s kind of business as usual, really.”

Other queries, such as how much Ohtani knew of Mizuhara’s suddenly shady past, if there was ever an indication Mizuhara was untruthful about his past experiences, and whether could he have ever imagined their relationship imploding in such scandalous fashion, will have to wait for at least one more day.

“I’m really looking forward to his addressing everyone tomorrow, as well,” Roberts reiterated. “I think the mood in the room is, get ready for baseball. Because I don’t hear a lot of conversations and speculation. That’s why I think tomorrow is going to be good for everyone. For us, in the clubhouse and with coaches, to the players, we just want to play and prepare to play. That’s it.”

Pitching plans come into focus

Roberts revealed a slight surprise about the Dodgers’ starting rotation Sunday, announcing that second-year right-hander Bobby Miller — and not $325-million offseason signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto — will start the team’s second game of this week’s homestand against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The news comes as a switch from the Dodgers’ Korea series, when Yamamoto followed opening day starter Tyler Glasnow in the rotation (Glasnow will start Thursday, Roberts confirmed).

However, Roberts indicated the move has more to do with scheduling considerations than Yamamoto’s one-inning, five-run performance in his MLB debut.

By pitching Yamamoto on Saturday, the Dodgers can push his next start back to Friday, April 12 — after an off-day the preceding day. That would give the 25-year-old rookie five days of rest, rather than the customary four, as he continues to transition from the once-per-week schedule he had in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.

Roberts also confirmed that on-the-bubble relievers Michael Grove, Alex Vesia and Kyle Hurt will be in the domestic opening day bullpen, after the team optioned J.P. Feyereisen, Gus Varland and Landon Knack on Friday.



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