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Mar 26, 2024 10:49 pm

Shohei Ohtani maelstrom clouds Dodgers-Cardinals matchup

Shohei Ohtani

As the Los Angeles Dodgers get set to resume their season against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon, there is a much different air from the optimism that surrounded their opener last week in South Korea.

The Cardinals will be starting their 2024 season, while the Dodgers already have won one game and lost another against the San Diego Padres in the Seoul Series.

Before the second game could begin on March 21, news broke that new Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani was embroiled in a controversy that included financial fraud of up to a reported $4.5 million, with the money in question allegedly tied to a Southern California bookmaker.

Ohtani has denied any involvement with sports betting, with the ordeal at best providing a way for the Dodgers to rally together as a team and at worst leaving a cloud over them all season, while threatening to disrupt the club’s championship aspirations.

“I think everyone was just kind of waiting and seeing and trying to stick beside Shohei, which we’ve showed we are doing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday after Ohtani gave his take on the matter in an 11-minute address to the media.

“But for him to be able to collect his thoughts and kind of speak honestly and openly and being very vulnerable, I thought was really huge. So I heard everything I needed to hear, and I know the players feel the same way,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers added the two-way talent on a 10-year, heavily-deferred $700 million contract in the offseason, and even though he won’t pitch this season after elbow surgery, his run-producing prowess adds to a lineup that includes fellow former MVPs in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

To fortify the pitching staff, Los Angeles acquired right-handers Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Ohtani’s countryman from Japan. Yamamoto landed a 12-year, $325 million deal.

Glasnow (0-0, 3.60 ERA) is set to take the mound Thursday after mixed results in his debut in the season opener, when he gave up two runs to the Padres on two hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Glasnow has six career appearances against the Cardinals (two starts) and is 0-2 with a 2.45 ERA.

Intent on distancing themselves from a disastrous 2023 season, the Cardinals have not enjoyed the best of springs. Not only will projected ace Sonny Gray open the season on the injured list with a hamstring strain, but three outfielders will start the season on the injured list.

The Cardinals open with right-hander Miles Mikolas on the mound after he went 9-13 with a 4.78 ERA last season in 35 starts. He allowed the most hits in baseball with 226, and his 107 earned runs were the most of any pitcher that spent his entire season in the National League.

Mikolas is 1-2 with a 4.23 ERA in seven career appearances (four starts) against the Dodgers.

“We’re not exactly a low-payroll team, but you got the Dodgers playing checkbook baseball,” Mikolas said. “We’re going to be the hardest-working group of Midwestern farmers we can be. … It would be great to stick it to the Dodgers.”

In the St. Louis outfield, Tommy Edman (wrist) and Lars Nootbaar (ribs) already were set to open the season on the IL. Now, Dylan Carlson also will be on the IL after a left shoulder injury Monday.

The Cardinals finished 71-91 last season. Their .438 winning percentage was their worst since a .434 mark (62-81) in 1995 and their worst in a full 162-game season since a .432 mark (70-92) in 1990.

–Field Level Media

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