TORONTO -- Johnny Oates was playing the role of defender, not motivator, when he was thrown out of last night's game.
Plate umpire Drew Coble and Orioles short stop Cal Ripken were embroiled in a long-range discussion of a called third strike, when Oates emerged from the dugout to divert attention.
"They were both still yelling at each other," said Oates. "And I've got to go before he [Ripken] does. He's my only shortstop, we had a 3-0 lead to protect, and you never know when the next word is going to bring the old heave-ho."
During his debate with Coble, it was obvious that something was said to trigger Oates' temper to a point not previously reached during his 1 1/2 -year tenure as a major-league manager. But Oates would not reveal any of the dialogue.
"Any conversation between me and the umpire stays between us," said Oates. "That's always been my philosophy, and it's going to stay that way."
The ejection was the first of the year for Oates, who was tossed from two games a year ago. He says it is part of the territory he has to accept as a manager, but he doesn't like it.
"I'd like to play the game and never go on the field to argue," said Oates. "But sometimes you have to stand up for your players, and that's what I was doing."
Oates quickly dismissed any notion that his on-field performance was intended to spur his team in the midst of an important series. "I don't ever go out there with the idea of getting thrown out," he said.
"I've had three ejections, and I'm not happy about any of them. I'll go out there to stand up for my players, but I'm going to do it in a respectful manner.
"But I'm not going to go out there and show them up just to try and motivate my team. I don't think that's fair.
"I'm not proud when I get thrown out of a game. It's not my style," said Oates.
The Orioles and Ripken have a history of confrontations with Coble, predating Oates' arrival as manager.
He is aware of the past problems, particularly relating to Ripken, but thinks it's just one of those things that happen.
"There's no doubt in my mind that it's nothing personal," said Oates. "I've gotten along real well with Drew.
"This is not a church picnic, you know. I'd like it to be like a church picnic. But those are grown men out there, and they're going to say things in the heat of battle."