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Which Oriole is the biggest key to any team success in 2010?

I am not going to be pouring out silver linings at the bar today.

That's not my job. The Orioles are 0-2. That's not the way they wanted to start. Yes, they were in both games against a good team on the road.

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But the bottom line is they lost. They are in an early hole. And that's not good considering the brutal schedule they are facing (16 straight games to start the season, including a West Coast swing).

Still, Wednesday night's loss was encouraging in that Jeremy Guthrie, the club's No. 1 in 2008 and its enigma in 2009, pitched well against a good hitting club in the Tampa Bay Rays.

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He gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings. Orioles manager Dave Trembley thinks Guthrie has found his form – and his arm angle – that made him a success before 2009.

It's too early to jump on that bandwagon. Guthrie has the talent to pitch well in any given game. The problem he had last year was inconsistency. He didn't string good outings together often, and that rollercoaster would mess with anyone's confidence.

So we won't know which Guthrie has arrived in 2010 until May or so. In the meantime, I will say this: I think Guthrie is the biggest key to any success the Orioles might have this season. Closer Michael Gonzalez is a close second.

Here is my theory on Guthrie: I think No. 1 starter Kevin Millwood will offer no surprises. He is a solid major league pitcher and will be solid in 2010, probably not spectacular or awful.

The young guys in the rotation will take their lumps at times and be excellent at times. In other words, consistency likely will be hard to come by (though Brian Matusz has sure looked great this spring).

That leaves Guthrie. If he pitches well, the Orioles have a solid rotation up top and a potentially strong one in the middle and end.

If Guthrie struggles again and has no consistency, it throws everything out of whack. Especially if he can't go deep into games, because the bullpen is already going to be extended covering for the young guys when their pitch counts rise (which happens to all young starters).

So it won't matter what Gonzalez is doing if the rest of the bullpen is taxed.

And I think the offense will be fine. Not great, but respectable over a long season.

The reality is the Orioles are going to have trouble in the American League East no matter what. But if they have a chance to meet your expectations – regardless how meager – many things have to go right. And I think Guthrie's performance is No. 1 on that list.

Daily Think Special: Which Oriole is the biggest key to any success the team may have in 2010?

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