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Remember a month ago when impatient fans, losing faith in Andy MacPhail's plan, were freaking out about "the Cavalry?"

Brian Matusz had just begun to rebound from a rough May in which he went 0-4 and posted a 7.50 ERA. Jake Arrieta got rocked in back-to-back starts. Chris Tillman {photo, at right, by Reuters} was sent down to Norfolk.

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There were whispers that the hyped-up pitching prospects weren't as good as advertised, that the Orioles overestimated their talents. And if the young arms were failing, so was MacPhail.

The premature speculation of their demise was foolish then.  All younger than 25, they are still getting acclimated to the major leagues. Matusz and Arrieta are rookies. Tillman is essentially one, having pitched just 65 innings in 2009. It is insane not to expect turbulence on their ascent to prominence.

"You need to let them grow at their own pace," pitching coach Rick Kranitz told The Baltimore Sun in June. "They're not ready to be Cy Young Award winners right now."

The distress signals seem even more foolish now that Baltimore's Big Three have bounced back with quality, hope-restoring performances in the past couple of weeks. Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman aren't the only reason the Orioles are on a roll, but they have been noticeable factors.

Matusz, 23, has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his past eight starts — the finest coming last week in Boston when he pitched seven scoreless innings to pick up his first win since April. His stuff was never in question, but it looks like he has gotten his confidence back.

Though he hasn't been overpowering, Arrieta — the only Orioles starter with a winning record — has been effective in June. He's strung together three quality starts, allowing a total of five earned runs. Sunday, the 24-year-old shut down the high-scoring Rangers to close out the Orioles' shocking four-game road sweep.

Tillman, 22, the most enigmatic of the trio, appears to have turned a corner in his crazy, roller-coaster season. He couldn't secure his roster spot in spring training. He pitched a no-no in Norfolk. He was promoted. Then demoted. Then promoted again.

Saturday, Tillman pitched a gem, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and outdueling Cliff Lee, one of the finest pitchers in the game. Most encouraging was that Tillman's velocity and control were much improved from his last stint with the Orioles.

Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman look like they belong. And really, that's all you can ask of your young pitchers. You can't expect them to dominate from the get-go like Stephen Strasburg has down in D.C.

"I don't think it's reasonable to expect that a young pitching staff wouldn't have their ups and downs, and they have," MacPhail said a month ago.

The same goes for the Orioles' second tier of young pitchers: Brad Bergesen has been a disappointment after a strong rookie season a year ago, but it's not like his career is over — he's still just 24. And Jason Berken and David Hernandez, starters a year ago, have thrived out of the bullpen in 2010.

The expectations are higher for Matusz, Arrieta and Tillman, of course. And their recent success has shown that the hype is not unwarranted. The growing pains will continue, though, and that's OK.

Because sooner than you think, it will be the rest of the A.L. East — not the foolish fans — that is freaking out about the Cavalry.

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