Dodgers fans fret over Ohtani interpreter scandal

Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers returned home on Friday after opening the season in South Korea. Fans, however, are concerned about how the scandal surrounding the interpreter for superstar Ohtani Shohei might affect the player both on and off the field.

Mizuhara Ippei was not just Ohtani's longtime interpreter but a trusted confidant. The player's lawyers say their client was a "victim" of theft that involved Mizuhara's illegal gambling. US media say he used Ohtani's money to pay off debts of over 4.5 million dollars.

Mizuhara has been fired by the Dodgers and, along with alleged bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, is the focus of a criminal probe by the Internal Revenue Service.

Ohtani is getting ready to play in his team's home opener on March 28. Fans have welcomed him as a bridge between Japan and the US, and they believe people will continue their support.

Artist Robert Vargas, who is working on a mural of Ohtani in Los Angeles, said it is "unfortunate" that someone who was close to the player would "make bad decisions" that would in any way affect him.

Local media say Ohtani should take more control over his public image. They say the scandal will not "simply vanish," and they, too, worry it may affect his play.

Ohtani has not yet issued a comment on the affair. Some reports are raising questions over whether he knew about Mizuhara's gambling addiction and whether he agreed to the wire transfers from his account. Others say he did not know about the problem -- or his missing money -- until after the season opener in Seoul.