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Tigers call up 'hard thrower' Molleken to help bullpen

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Dustin Molleken has 3.76 ERA in 38.1 innings with Toledo.

Detroit — The first question was who?

“You just told me more about him,” said Justin Verlander, “than I knew.”

Then next question was why?

“The bullpen’s shot,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

And with that, the Tigers on Monday afternoon called up little-known right-hander Dustin Molleken from Triple A Toledo.

Drafted in the 15th round by the Pirates in 2003, this is the first call-up for Molleken, who came via a recommendation from Toledo manager Lloyd McClendon.

Molleken, 31, got the call over Double A phenom Joe Jimenez, who hasn’t allowed an earned run since last summer.

“We needed an arm,” Ausmus said. “We saw him in spring training. He’s a hard thrower.

“There’s a lot of hard throwers. We’ll find out.”

Molleken wasn’t exactly blowing folks away at Toledo. He appeared in 23 games (four starts) for the Mud Hens, with a 3.76 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 38.1 innings. He struck out 34 — pretty good — and walked 25 — pretty bad.

Over his last five appearances (18.2 innings), he allowed seven earned runs and 15 walks.

Tigers catcher James McCann caught him briefly this year, in spring training and during a rehab assignment. He said he’s got a fastball that can touch 94-95 and a slider.

“He’s a great teammate, first and foremost,” McCann said.

Molleken has plenty of practice in that regard.

He’s played for 12 professional teams, mostly in the minor leagues, but also for a couple years in Japan. After leaving the Pirates, he also played in systems of the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Indians before being signed as a minor league free-agent by the Tigers this past offseason.

On the Tigers’ 10-game road trip, Ausmus went to the bullpen 32 different times, including nine times in the last two games — once even to Andrew Romine.

Justin Wilson has dealt with elbow soreness and Shane Greene has pitched in six of the last nine games, so the Tigers needed a reinforcement. They now have nine guys in the bullpen, and likely will until they need a starter Thursday. That’ll either be Daniel Norris from Toledo or Anibal Sanchez; Ausmus said that hasn’t been decided.

To make room for Molleken, who had to be added to the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated veteran infielder Casey McGehee for assignment. McGehee batted .323/.370/.440 with four homers and 27 RBIs for Toledo but received just one at-bat since being called up by the Tigers this weekend.

McGehee has played for a lot of teams, too, but many of them have been major league teams.

This will be the first for Molleken — who waited for this day to come.

“I love hearing stories like that,” Verlander said.

Molleken was not in the Tigers’ clubhouse Monday before it was closed to the media.

Detroit was set to open a four-game series against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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