Confrontation With Umpire Leaves Zimmermann Puzzled In Loss To White Sox

"He got really defensive and took a step at me and said, 'Do you wanna go, too?'"

Will Burchfield
April 19, 2019 - 11:35 pm

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


No, said Jordan Zimmermann, he wasn't surprised by Todd Tichenor's quick hook. The home plate umpire wasted little time tossing Ron Gardenhire out of the Tigers' loss to the White Sox Friday night after the manager objected to a bases-loaded walk on a close pitch in the top of the fifth inning. 

The call gave the White Sox a 2-1 lead. 

What did surprise Zimmermann was Tichenor's reaction when the veteran pitcher asked for a little help walking off the mound at the end of that half inning. 

"I said, 'You have to give me the outside corner or the inside corner. It’s gotta be one or the other, or else I'm not going to be in this game long.' He got really defensive and took a step at me and said, 'Do you wanna go, too?' And I said, 'No, not really,' so I walked off. "I don't know," said Zimmermann. "He was having a bad day.

"Every umpire can have those from time to time, but it was tough to be out there throwing some good pitches and thinking they’re strikes and he balls you." 

Zimmermann pitched into the seventh inning, but ultimately surrendered five runs on six hits and four walks. It's the most walks he's allowed in a game since the middle of the 2017 season. 59 of his 97 pitches were strikes.

The call that left him most frustrated was the bases-loaded walk on a 3-1 curveball to Yoan Moncada that Tichenor ruled low. Catcher Grayson Greiner receieved the pitch slightly below Moncada's knees, but Zimmermann felt it was a strike when it crossed the plate. 

"He caught it probably below the box on the TV, but where the ball crosses is going to be higher than that so it's most likely going to be a strike. Grayson caught the ball well and (Tichenor) just balled another one. I was like, I don’t know where to throw it," said Zimmermann. "Most of the time you get in a game and you get going, you know where the umpire gives and where he doesn’t give. I had no clue where he was giving tonight." 

When Zimmermann tried to reason with Tichenor, the ump wasn't having it. 

"Usually they listen to you a little bit. I barely had the words out of my mouth and he was coming at me already. I don’t know if Gardy said something to him that really made him mad or what," Zimmermann said with a chuckle, "but he had a pretty quick trigger." 

Tichenor has been a full-time umpire in the majors since 2012. Zimmermann said he's had no issues with him in the past. On this occasion, Tichenor simply had a tight zone. 

That presents a particular challenge for Zimmermann, who isn't the power pitcher he used to be. He needs calls on the edges of the plate to be successful, and on Friday he didn't get them. 

"I was around the zone most of the night, a lot of borderline calls that a lot of other umpires would have given me. I can’t live over the middle of the plate or I’ll be gone in the first inning. I have to live on the corners," said Zimmermann. "There were a lot of questionable calls tonight. He thought they were balls and I thought they were strikes. He had a bad night." 

With the loss, Zimmermann falls to 0-3 on the season with a 4.94 ERA. 

"It is what it is," he said of his frustration with Tichenor. "Move on and be ready for tomorrow."