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Three Strikes: AL Central teams might have to lean on untested rookies

Steve Gardner, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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Throughout the course of a season, just about every major league team will find itself needing an inexperienced player to learn on the job and produce like a veteran. That's already happening in several MLB cities this year - either by choice or by necessity.

It just so happens three clubs in the American League Central that were in the news on Monday could all be looking for rookies to give them a boost in what could be a four-team battle for the division title.

So let's take a closer look at three AL Central youngsters who could play important roles going forward.

White Sox lose another key cog

Luis Robert is helped up by a member of the White Sox athletic training staff after beating out an infield single against Cleveland on Sunday.
Luis Robert is helped up by a member of the White Sox athletic training staff after beating out an infield single against Cleveland on Sunday.

Chicago White Sox center fielder Luis Robert suffered a Grade 3 strain of his right hip flexor when he landed awkwardly on first base beating out an infield single during Sunday's game against Cleveland.

The White Sox say Robert, USA TODAY's Minor League Player of the Year in 2019, will be out 12-16 weeks - unless he opts for surgery, which likely would end his season. This is the second major blow to the White Sox outfield this season, after Eloy Jimenez suffered a torn pectoral tendon at the very end of spring training.

Nine-year veteran Leury Garcia is expected to get most of the starts in center field, with rookie Andrew Vaughn potentially playing everyday in left.

Vaughn, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 draft, got off to a slow start while playing sporadically over the season's first month. But he has hit better lately - and getting regular at-bats should only help.

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Twins rookie heating up

Another youngster who started slowly this season is outfielder/first baseman Alex Kirilloff of the Minnesota Twins.

No. 6 on USA TODAY's 100 Names to Know list for 2021, Kirilloff, 23, actually made his MLB debut during last year's playoffs. He was projected as the team's potential opening day left fielder or designated hitter, but a dismal .129/.182/.258 showing in spring training ended that discussion.

His struggles continued when he was activated in mid-April and went hitless in his first 15 major league at-bats.

But since then, Kirilloff has put together a seven-game hitting streak - extending it with a pair of doubles on Monday night. Over that span, he is 9-for-28 (.321) with four homers and 11 RBI.

Royals summon prized starter

Completing the trifecta, the Kansas City Royals called up left-hander Daniel Lynch on Monday to make his MLB debut against Cleveland.

The 24-year-old Lynch, No. 67 on the 100 Names to Know list, was the 34th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of the University of Virginia.

The Royals' TV broadcast had an interesting story about how he earned his scholarship at an open tryout for high school players. Lynch somehow forgot to bring his glove, so his dad had to buy one at a local sporting goods store.

Everything turned out fine though. He got the scholarship. And he still has the glove.

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The Royals led 3-1 with Lynch one out away from qualifying for the victory when manager Mike Matheny summoned reliever Scott Barlow in the top of the fifth with runners on first and second.

Lynch allowed four hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out three. Look for him to remain in the Royals rotation for the foreseeable future.

Follow Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Luis Robert injury could mean White Sox call on Andrew Vaughn