MINNEAPOLIS -- Bubba is in the books.

The long-awaited pro debut of outfielder Bubba Starling, Kansas City's first-round draft pick of 2011, came on Thursday night for the Rookie Royals of Burlington, N.C. He missed the first nine games because of a hamstring injury.

Starling played center field, batted third and went 0-for-5 with a walk and one run in the Royals' 14-2 loss to the Cardinals at Johnson City, Tenn.

Starling, who's from the Kansas City area, signed a $7.5 million deal last year too late to play last summer. He prepared for his debut in extended Spring Training at Surprise, Ariz.

Catcher Cam Gallagher, who was the Royals' second-round pick in 2011, returned from a hand bruise in the same game and went 2-for-6. Gallagher had played in five games and was 4-for-18 (.222) prior to his injury. He broke in last year with Rookie teams at Surprise and Idaho Falls.

Shortstop Escobar doing well in clutch

MINNEAPOLIS -- All those times that shortstop Alcides Escobar was allowed to bat in clutch situations last year instead of using a pinch-hitter seems to have to paid off.

Escobar, going into the series at Minnesota, had a .315 average to lead all Major League shortstops. In fact, he ranked seventh in American League hitting overall.

Manager Ned Yost drew some criticism last year for not pinch-hitting for Escobar at crucial times but never wavered.

"Last year in a lot of tough situations, in the last three innings in a tie game or we're down by one run and the team needs a hit, he let me hit and he gave me confidence," Escobar said. "That was great because I learned more about situations like that and right now I feel like I've been much better this year."

The thin Escobar added about seven pounds in weight, and perhaps some muscle, because this year his 23 extra-base hits total (19 doubles, two homers) is only 10 shy of what he had all last season.

"But I just trust in my hands. I know I can hit because I always hit in the Minor Leagues and I feel like I can hit in the big leagues," he said. "I got a little more patient in the last year. I see the ball better and I've been hitting the ball harder."

Escobar is one of the Royals likely to get serious consideration for the All-Star Game at Kansas City. The squads will be announced on Sunday.

"I want to go to the All-Star Game, I'm waiting for that," he said. "I'd like to have a chance to make the team. Maybe they'll pick two or three guys from the team, and I'd like to [be] one of them."

Hottovy to be 26th man for doubleheader

MINNEAPOLIS -- Left-handed reliever Tommy Hottovy will be the Royals' 26th man for Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the Twins.

Under the new Basic Agreement, teams are permitted to add an extra player for doubleheaders. Manager Ned Yost felt that a 13th pitcher probably would be of more use than a position player.

This will be the third time Hottovy has been called up from Triple-A Omaha, where he's 2-0 with seven saves and a 1.63 ERA in 21 games. The sidewheeler also has 38 strikeouts and only six walks in 27 2/3 innings.

Hottovy was picked for the Triple-A All-Star Game, which will be played July 11 at Buffalo.

"He won't miss the All-Star Game, he'll just be here a day," Yost said.

Perez 'scared' by slide into knee

MINNEAPOLIS -- Catcher Salvador Perez admits he had some uncertain moments last Wednesday when the Rays' Ben Zobrist slid into his left knee in a play at the plate.

It was the first hard collision at the plate since Perez returned to the Royals a week ago after surgery on that knee.

"No bruise, just a little cut where he hit me with the spike," Perez said. "My shin guard broke a little bit and that's where he caught me."

There were a few tense moments when Perez was slow getting to his feet and waited for a trainer to check him out.

"I was scared because it's the first time it hurt a little bit but I came up, did a squat and everything and I was fine," Perez said.

Friday night against the Twins, Perez started the fifth game since his return from surgery.

Getz set to start rehab Saturday in Triple-A

MINNEAPOLIS -- Second baseman Chris Getz will begin an injury rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Omaha on Saturday night against Albuquerque.

Getz is out with a lateral strain in his lower left leg and could return from the disabled list as early as Tuesday. He is hitting .290 in 36 games.