Are you still confident in the young pitchers?

It was true last year and likely will be true again next year: The Orioles can improve as a team, but they need their young pitching to take a step forward in 2012. The opposite pretty much is what we saw last year.

* Brian Matusz ended 2010 going 6-0 with a 1.57 ERA over his last eight starts, then got injured, lost his fastball and went 1-9 with an ERA of 10.69 last season.

* Jake Arrieta's ERA increased from 4.66 during his 2010 rookie year to 5.05 last summer.

* Zach Britton had his ups and downs during his first big league season, going 11-11 with an ERA of 4.61 but pitched to an ERA of 2.14 over his first nine big league starts.

Others that still fit in the young pitcher category spent some of last season enduring various struggles like Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken.

Without a next wave ready to break through and reach the majors, the Orioles are banking on guys like Britton, Arrieta and Matusz to pitch better and form the core of a starting rotation for many years to come.

There are some fans that feel the Orioles have been here before with pitchers that had potential like Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Matt Riley and so on that were touted but never put up very good numbers for the team. But others feel this current group will eventually prove to be solid, but they are just going through some normal struggles that young hurlers often deal with.

Which way those pitchers go will have a lot to say about the fate of the team's future.

Buck Showalter recently provided a vote of confidence for the pitchers and pointed out that he remains behind them.

"Some of the best development of young pitchers happens in the offseason when they are away from it and they kind of step back after two or three weeks," Showalter said. "They've got it. I said last year the success of our season would be how quickly they develop. Because it was delayed doesn't mean it's denied.

"We are banking on some of the maturing process of our young pitchers. It's a two-or-three-year process for most of them, especially in our division. You have to be true to that process. We think some of those guys are primed to take that next step."

Sometimes the psyche and confidence of young pitchers is fragile. They need to learn to trust their stuff and believe that they can get big league hitters out. Factors like run support and defense behind them are big.

We often focus on offseason additions the team does or doesn't make to determine how much better the Orioles can be from one season to the next. It was true last year and will be probably be true again this next season, though, in that the young starters' improvement or lack of same will have the most to say about the 2012 season.

What is your take?: Did you see some of the struggles of the young pitchers last year as just part of a longer process? Do you still believe in them?

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