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Report: MLB opening betting investigation into ex-Angels infielder

| By Jill R. Dorson
As the federal investigation into the Wayne Nix illegal gambling ring expands, Major League Baseball is opening its first investigation. The league so far has declined to do its own investigation into Shohei Ohtani or his ex-interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
angels players illegal betting

But ESPN Friday (17 May) linked former Angels infielder David Fletcher and ex-minor leaguer Cody Shultz to the Southern California illegal betting ring. Monday morning, ESPN reported that MLB is opening a betting investigation into Fletcher, now in the Atlanta Braves farm system.

Fletcher reportedly bet with Mathew Bowyer, the same illegal bookmaker Mizuhara used. Fletcher did not bet on baseball, according to ESPN.

His high school friend, Shultz, reportedly did, though, including on Angels games in which Fletcher played. According to ESPN, Schultz is the person identified as “Bookmaker 3” in the Mizuhara complaint.

Major League Baseball has not officially acknowledged an investigation. It previously declined to open one on Ohtani, after the federal government referred to Ohtani as a victim. The league previously said the federal government had more resources available, so it would wait to see what was uncovered.

MLB: Betting OK, just not on baseball

MLB rules allow players to bet on sports, just not baseball. Sports betting is illegal in California, which means if Fletcher or Schultz did bet with Bowyer, they broke the law. If Fletcher or Schultz bet on baseball, either would face a lifetime ban, per league rules.

MLB’s gambling policy requires a minimum one-year suspension for a player who “operates or works for” an illegal bookmaker. The penalty for betting with an illegal bookie is at the commissioner’s discretion.

Fletcher and Ohtani were teammates from 2018 to 2023 and Fletcher told ESPN that he and Ohtani were “good friends”. During that span, the Angels did not have a winning season and did not break .500. In 2021, Fletcher signed a $26 million five-year contract extension, but the Angels then traded him to the Braves.

Mizuhara to change plea in June

Fletcher previously told ESPN that he was at the poker game where Mizuhara met Bowyer but denied introducing the two. Mizuhara plans to plead guilty for stealing nearly $17m from Ohtani to pay off gambling debts incurred with Bowyer.

He pled “not guilty” last week, but a change-of-plea hearing is set for 4 June. Mizuhara is charged with bank fraud and signing a fraudulent tax return. The maximum penalties for his crimes are 33 years in prison and $1.25m in fines.

The federal betting investigation stemming from the Nix gambling ring is wide-reaching. Former Dodger Yaiel Puig and ex-Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen have been ensnared. LeBron James’ manager also bet with the Nix ring.

Fletcher and Schultz grew up in Orange County, the same county Bowyer and Mizuhara live in. He played college baseball at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles and the Angels drafted him in the sixth round in 2015. He made his MLB debut on 13 June 2018.

Fletcher played five games for the Braves this season between 16 April and 25 April. He went 2-for-8 and was sent back to Triple A Gwinnet.

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