LOS ANGELES — After what Dave Roberts described as the craziest spring of his career, the Dodgers manager welcomed the routine that came with Thursday’s stateside Opening Day. 

Earlier this month, a trip to Korea ended with the firing of Shohei Ohtani’s interpreter and the Dodgers’ new superstar in the crosshairs of a gambling scandal, just one game into his record-setting $700 million deal. But now, finally, a normal rhythm could return. The attention could turn to what might be one of the greatest lineups this sport has ever seen. The Dodgers could do what they were built to do. 

“We’ve got to focus on baseball, and that’s the only thing that guys are thinking about today,” Roberts said. “I promise you that.”

The same went for the 52,667 fans in attendance Thursday at Dodger Stadium, who did not seem bothered by the ongoing investigation into the reigning American League MVP as the Dodgers’ revamped offense pulverized the Cardinals in a 7-1 win. 

Days ago, Ohtani held a conference at Dodger Stadium where he claimed his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, had stolen money from his account to pay off gambling debts to an illegal bookmaker. Before his first regular-season game as a home player at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, he still received a raucous ovation while walking down a giant blue carpet in center field as part of the pregame festivities. The crowd remained on its feet as he stepped to the plate for the first time and pulled a double to right field. He seemed unfazed by everything going off the field. 

“I’m very grateful, now being part of the Dodgers, and being received by the Dodger fans,” Ohtani said through his new interpreter, Will Ireton. “Obviously I’ve been here before as an opposing player, so it was a little intimidating. I’m very grateful for the fans — and there were a lot of them.”

Maybe a little too enveloped in the moment, Ohtani seemed so certain of a triple on his first at-bat that he didn’t look up — as third-base coach Dino Ebel held up Mookie Betts — and got stuck on the basepaths and tagged out. But if the Cardinals were counting on the Dodgers being too distracted to perform, they were out of luck. 

When this lineup has all its pieces, it is a nearly unstoppable force. It features not just three MVPs, but three former MVPs still in their prime. All three players finished in the top three in MVP voting last season and had an OPS+ over 160, meaning they hit 60% better than league average, something that hasn’t happened from three qualified players in the same lineup since the 1963 Giants

“The first word that comes to mind,” Roberts said, “is ‘daunting.'”

Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman go yard as Dodgers grab 5-0 lead

For the first time, Dodgers fans got to witness first-hand what might be the top position-player trio in baseball history. Betts, Ohtani and Freddie Freeman lived up to the billing, combining to reach base nine times, launch two homers, hit a double and score six runs. 

“Once the lights turn on,” Betts said, “you have to be ready to play.” 

Through three innings Thursday, the star trio had reached base all six times up and scored five runs, providing a taste of the damage it can inflict on an opponent and making life difficult on Miles Mikolas. The St. Louis starter said before the game that it’d be “great to stick it to the Dodgers,” who were playing “checkbook baseball.” 

Instead, he allowed five runs in 4.1 innings. It turns out, writing checks isn’t the worst formula. 

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On Thursday, Ohtani doubled, walked and singled in his first three at-bats. Roberts thought he looked more like himself than he did during the three-game Freeway Series that followed the Dodgers’ season-opening Seoul Series. 

“You have to be able to compartmentalize,” Roberts said. “You have to be a professional. And we have a lot of guys in the clubhouse that are professionals.”

That will be important as the Dodgers learn to navigate life with Ohtani, whose presence alone brings with it far more fanfare, whether embroiled in scandal or not. On Thursday, multiple players voiced their frustration as nearly 100 media members packed the postgame clubhouse, where Ohtani spoke for the first time since addressing the gambling scandal. 

Still, Roberts has seen one positive development from the off-field situation that has enveloped his team and its new star. He believes that removing the buffer of Ohtani’s former interpreter has made Ohtani engage more with his teammates over the last week. 

And if there were any concerns it would impact his performance, Thursday seemed to quell those concerns. 

“I was the only guy who couldn’t hit a homer,” Ohtani joked. “But overall, I thought I had a pretty good game today.”

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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