‘Kick into overdrive:’ Topeka store managers motivate employees for hectic Black Friday

Topeka JCPenney general manager Brian Ruiz is ready for the Black Friday rush. (Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal) Topeka JCPenney general manager Brian Ruiz is ready for the Black Friday rush after several months of pre-planning, keeping both the employee experience and the customer experience in mind. (Thad Allton/The Capital-Journal)

Black Friday launches a frenzied month of fighting for parking spaces, long lines weaving to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and enough chaos to make customers consider holiday boycotts.

It is up to the people on the other side of the registers — the tireless retail workers — to keep smiling, keep ringing up merchandise and attempt to maintain order in chaos.

Brian Ruiz, general manager at Topeka’s JCPenney store at West Ridge Mall, is well aware of how much the busy holiday season can take out of employees. The company has always made an effort to support employees throughout the season, which launches close to Thanksgiving and lasts well into January.

“Team morale is very important,” he said. “We try our best to accommodate requests around important events in their lives, as well as hire additional staff so we can work them shorter hours. In addition to that, when we’re open on Black Friday, we are giving additional incentives like two times pay to our employees during that very busy holiday day. We’re giving them free shirts to wear and food around the clock.”

Such incentives can motivate employees who may find themselves on their feet dealing with (occasionally) grumpy customers. It is important that managers understand the challenges their employees face, said Cord Himelstein, vice president of marketing and communications for HALO Recognition, an Illinois company focused on inspiring employees.

“Rushing around on foot all day for an extended shift can take its toll physically, making employees more susceptible to mental burnout,” he said. “Employee endurance is also pushed to the limit as they must contend with higher-than-usual periods of sustained customer engagement. Also, management can get over-extended and simple things like recognition and moral support can fall by the wayside. Seasonal employees already have higher turnover, and if they are marginalized from full-time workers, it only worsens.”

Kristina Dietrick, president of HR Partners, 1240 S.W. Oakley Ave., said the holiday season tends to be challenging for industries outside of retail when it comes to human resources.

“For us in the human resources field, probably the most employee relations issues that we see tend to be around the holidays,” she said. “We call it the HR employee relations dysfunction. I think it’s because it’s very stressful for a lot of employees during the holidays. A lot of people think this is the happy time of the year, which in a lot of ways it is, but it also can be extremely stressful.”

Dietrick said it is important that managers be aware of and recognize challenges employees face and that they encourage employees to take their paid time off instead of losing it at the end of the year and seek help through employee assistance programs as needed.

“It’s just those two things. Take the time off if you need it. Be in control. Be proactive instead of reactive. That’s what I see the best employers do,” she said.

Ruiz said the Topeka store usually ups its workforce by about 25 people, but this year it has hired 40 people to handle the gift-giving season. With adequate staffing for the crowds, it is easier to meet requests for time off when employees want to be with their families.

Crowds will flood stores throughout December. The National Retail Federation predicted 2017 holiday sales will increase 3.6 to 4 percent over 2016, hitting upwards of $678.8 billion in sales. The organization predicts there will be 164 million people shopping on Thanksgiving weekend.

Store managers like Ruiz worry about a lot more than staffing up to handle the crowds. Determining store layout for all the incoming merchandise is important to ensure traffic flow, Ruiz said. The customer experience, which involves multiple elements, is of greatest concern.

“It’s how you set the merchandise up to make it easy for the guest to shop, how you create additional line management processes for when the lines are a little bit longer, how you properly train the store’s staff and personnel to make sure to give the customer some personalized attention,” he said.

Brenda Price, owner of Absolute Designs by Brenda, 629 S. Kansas Ave., has a much smaller store than JCPenney, but customer service and being organized is the only way to manage for the holidays. She boosted her staff this year, adding three employees to handle the holiday decorating aspect of her business. Absolute Designs decorates commercial and residential buildings for the holidays.

Ordering for the holiday season occurs the previous January or February, so most of what Price does, she said, is “unpack a whole lot of cardboard boxes.”

“By the time it shows up in July and August, you’ve forgotten whatever you ordered,” she said, laughing.

Black Friday is busy for her, but it is typically busier on Small Business Saturday, which this year is Nov. 25. Price scheduled the store’s holiday open house for Dec. 1 and 2.

Staying motivated isn’t optional.

“You just — it’s hard to understand, but somehow you just know you have to kick into overdrive and say a big prayer and it happens,” Price said.

Get Black Friday shopping specials early!

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We’ll be open for one hour only at 616 S.E. Jefferson St. so eager shoppers can get their hands on 37 advertising inserts with 636 pages of sales.

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Kansas City’s $1B airport revamp hinges on vote by residents

(Photo: Kansas City International Airport)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A nearly $1 billion remodel of Kansas City International Airport will either provide an important boost to the city’s economy, air service and national reputation, or it will be colossal waste of money designed to line the pockets of airlines and contractors while making air travel less convenient.

Those are the arguments swirling ahead a citywide vote Tuesday in a contentious, years-long fight in Kansas City, Mo., about whether to replace the 45-year-old airport’s three horseshoe-shaped terminals with a single terminal.

City leaders say the project will be funded by user fees and the airlines, and no tax dollars will be required. Opponents scoff at the claim, saying taxpayers will eventually foot at least part of the bill and note that the city still doesn’t have any final plans or signed contracts with the chosen developer, Maryland-based Edgemoor.

The opposition, led by a grassroots group called Citizens for Responsible Government, argue the city-owned airport could be modernized at a much lower cost. Mayor Sly James and other supporters say revitalizing the airport is key to the city’s economy and will improve security.

RELATED: Border war: Could Kansas ‘steal’ K.C. airport from Missouri? | Kansas City airport terminal: Renovate or rebuild?

"Your airport is everything if a city wants to grow," said Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International-North America, an organization that advocates on issues that affect airports.

"It attracts businesses, offers employment to locals. It builds up the tax base, the employee base. If your airport is a first-class airport, that is a good thing for that part of Missouri. Without it, it’s going to be a challenge to compete," Burke said.

The airport handled 5.3 million passenger boardings in 2016, ranking it the 39th busiest airport in the U.S. But it currently offers few restaurants, retail shops or bathrooms, with small waiting areas near the gates and few amenities, such as charging stations.

ARCHIVES: Airlines tell Kansas City 1 terminal would be better than 3

Those things matter to travelers, said Jolie Justus, a member of the City Council and chairwoman of Kansas City’s airport committee. She said companies and convention organizers have declined to come to the city because they say the airport’s layout is too congested, doesn’t offer convenient flights and offers few services.

"Our airport has served us well for 45 years, but it really is not meeting the needs the city has, not only as a front door but also our needs to provide an airport configuration to expand services and grow as a city," Justus said.

TODAY IN THE SKY: Reno: The biggest little freight hub you’ve never heard of (story continues below)

Those arguments don’t persuade opponents, who say the existing terminals could be improved for millions of dollars less while maintaining the current airport’s convenience and offering amenities that modern travelers require. The fight has also been divided between local passengers who use the airport occasionally and those who travel extensively.

Dan Coffey, treasurer of Citizens for Responsible Government, said Tuesday’s vote is a way for the city to get around a 2014 ordinance his group pushed that prohibits the city from demolishing or starting a major renovation project at any airport owned by the city.

The proposal on the ballot also would give almost complete control of the airport to airlines, with little or no input from city officials or citizens, Coffey said.

"The ballot language only says, ‘Give us permission to destroy the terminals we have now, and then just trust us that we’ll build something you like,’" he said. "They’ve spent $2 million to convince people we need this, and that seems like a bad signal to me. We are just asking people to consider our arguments, get educated and use your best judgment."

Polls commissioned by the opposing camps indicate the vote will be close. Justus, the city councilwoman, said it may come down to turnout for an election on a day with few other issues to draw out voters.

"I’m focused on it passing," Justus said. "But if it doesn’t, we’ll do what we always do, get up the next day, roll up our sleeves and figure out what we can do to get a modern, safe airport to move us into the future."

IN PICTURES: 30 cool aviation photos

IN PICTURES: 30 (more) cool aviation photos

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Housing costs to spike if Kansas City lands new Amazon HQ

The number of jobs the company promises to bring in is more than the metro has added over the past decade. (CNN)

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) –

If Amazon’s second headquarters came to Kansas City it would drastically change the city’s housing landscape.

Amazon would become the city’s largest employer with 50,000 new jobs, but experts say it could also have a negative effect on area home prices and rent.

Experts with the website ApartmentList.com, say people could see rent increases double if the online retail giant came to town.

That would mean, if a person’s rent goes up $50 per year, it would now go up $100.

Research expert Sidney Bennett says the problem is Kansas City would have a hard time constructing housing fast enough for Amazon workers.

The number of jobs the company promises to bring in is more than the metro has added over the past decade and that could make finding a place to live a difficult task.

"In Seattle, which is home to the current headquarters, rents have been skyrocketing," Bennett said.

Prices are not expected to go as high as Seattle’s as Kansas City rent prices start lower than many major cities.

According to RentJungle.com, the average rent for an apartment in Seattle is north of $2,100.

Compared to Kansas City, it’s a big difference, coming in at $961.

"It would put Kansas City’s rent growth more on par with national average,” Bennet said. “So, I think that the total rent growth might be, or not sound, as high to people outside of the metro."

Bennett says the silver lining for renters would be the benefits, beyond their monthly rent check.

"I think, in terms of rent, if you’re a renter, it’s not really a good thing but it does benefit to the city, so you can weigh that out,” Bennett said. “Have more tax revenue, build better roads or better schools. If you’re a homeowner, you might be excited but if you’re a renter trying to save up for a down payment it definitely makes it tougher."

If Kansas City wins the bid, those 50,000 would mean salaries around $100,000.

Bennett says if residents get better jobs with better pay it may be an incentive to pay more for housing.

Final bids for the new headquarters are due Thursday.

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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Chiefs QB Alex Smith flying high with Kansas City at 5-0

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) By almost any measure, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is having the best season of his career.

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Best season of anybody in the league this year, too.

He was 29 of 37 for 324 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions in Sunday night’s 42-24 victory over Houston, which kept Kansas City as the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. That was good for a 130.2 passer rating, his sixth straight regular-season game with 100.0 or better.

His prolific night tossing touchdown passes followed a four-touchdown performance in the season opener against New England, and gave him 11 for the season, third best in the league.

RELATED: Biggest winners and losers from Week 5

Smith also ranks third in yards passing, better than such notables as Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. He ranks first in completion percentage at 76.6, more than 5 percent better than Josh McCown in second. And he ranks first in yards per attempt at 8.80, topping second-place Tom Brady, even though Smith has been saddled with a dink-and-dunk reputation as a game manager.

Oh, and he’s run for more than 100 yards and another touchdown during the Chiefs’ 5-0 start.

”He’s really good at extending plays,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. ”I’m not sure what he rushed for, but he ran for a lot of yards. He’s a great player. He’s playing at a high level right now.”

The Chiefs are playing at a high level because of him.

This is the third time in franchise history the Chiefs have won their first five games, and the win in Houston was their ninth consecutive on the road, matching the franchise record set in 1966-67.

Since his arrival in a 2013 trade with San Francisco, Smith has helped the Chiefs piece together a win streak of at least five games during each season. That included nine straight to start the 2013 season, 10 straight two years ago and five in a row to win the AFC West last season.

”Alex is playing similar to how he’s played before. The results are a bit different,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”It seems like he’s more in tune, and the receivers are more in tune with their games with one another. (Offensive coordinator) Matt Nagy has done a phenomenal job as a coordinator and putting things together that are Alex’s best stuff.”

The fact that Smith has played at this level is remarkable considering the injuries that have ransacked the offense. They’ve been without center Mitch Morse and guards Parker Ehinger and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, left tackle Eric Fisher has played through some back spasms, and more injuries hit during an otherwise dominant performance in Houston.

Tight end Travis Kelce was sidelined by a concussion, briefly returned to the game, then left again when he complained of memory loss. The Chiefs also lost No. 2 wide receiver Chris Conley with a ruptured Achilles tendon, further depleting a young and not necessarily deep position group.

None of that seems to have mattered, though. Smith just keeps making plays.

”I think we’re just executing more consistently,” he said. ”I think we’ve had flashes in years past and I think we’ve had a good stretch week to week. I think we have a confidence about us that even when we do get little spills and things don’t go our way, we still can find a way to go back to being us. We have the guys to do that. We have the coaches to do that. We have the confidence in that.”

No mistake, the Chiefs are exuding confidence heading into next Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, the team that knocked them from the divisional round of the playoffs last season.

That’s because the biggest question mark surrounding the Chiefs the last few years has been the ceiling of their quarterback. Everybody knew that their defense was stingy and opportunistic, and that playmakers such as Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and now rooking running back Kareem Hunt gave Kansas City enough weapons to stay in the game with anyone.

What most people still questioned was whether Smith could carry a team on his right arm.

So far, he’s answering their question with aplomb.

NOTES: Reid said during a conference call Monday that Kelce was feeling better but still must go through the NFL’s concussion protocol. … Reid also praised RG Cam Erving, who started for Duvernay-Tardif in Erving’s first game since arriving in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) throws against the Houston Texans during an NFL footb… – (AP Photo/David J. Phillip

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Washington Redskins vs. Kansas City Chiefs odds, pick from expert who rules NFL totals

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Redskins-Chiefs Matchup Analysis

Redskins-Chiefs Matchup Analysis

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The Kansas City Chiefs host the Washington Redskins in the final game of Week 4.

The line has already seen plenty of movement. It opened at Chiefs -8, but has since dropped to -7. That means Vegas thinks the Chiefs win by a touchdown.

The over-under stands at 49.5, meaning Vegas thinks 49.5 total points will be scored. It’s unchanged from where it opened.

Before you make any bets on Redskins-Chiefs, you’ll want to hear what Mike "Top Dog" Tierney has to say.

Tierney went a sizzling 22-9 on NFL over-unders last season. And he is an impressive 6-2 this season, including nailing unders on both "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football" last week. He has been money in prime time.

Part of his success: He’s full of inside information. He has reported from seven Super Bowls and is a well-known national sportswriter. Anyone who has followed his picks has been well-rewarded.

Tierney knows the dynamic duo of Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill have turned the Chiefs into a threat to score on any snap from any spot on the field. The two have combined for four touchdowns of between 30 and 75 yards. And he knows the over is 4-1 in the Chiefs’ past five games.

The Chiefs are third in yards per game with almost 400, and the Redskins are eighth in the same category at 373.

But that doesn’t mean "Monday Night Football" definitely goes over. The Chiefs’ No. 28 defensive rating is misleading. Opponents have been forced to play catch-up and throw heavily. Tom Brady threw it 36 times, Carson Wentz had 46 attempts and Philip Rivers had 40 last week. More tellingly, the Chiefs’ yards-per-play yield is tied for 13th.

And the Redskins just held a Raiders team that scored 71 points in the first two weeks to only 10 on Sunday night last week.

Tierney is leaning on the Redskins to stay within the spread, but what about the over-under, which he has made his name picking?

He knows there’s a huge x-factor that ultimately determines whether Redskins-Chiefs on "Monday Night Football" goes over or under. And he’s sharing it over at SportsLine.

So which side should you back in Redskins-Chiefs on "Monday Night Football?" And does this game go over or under? Visit SportsLine now to see what big x-factor sends Redskins-Chiefs over or under, and see which side of the total you need to be all over, all from the expert who is blistering hot in total plays.

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Reasons To Live In Kansas

Kansas is one of those places people tend to mention when it comes to moving.

You want to move in and make the most of your time, and that’s where Kansas is a winner.

Here are the reasons you will want to live in Kansas.

1) Friendly City

This is a warm city when it comes to its residents.

You are going to enjoy raising your family in Kansas, and that is a major deciding point for people who are coming in. The schools are great, and you’ll love it as a parent.

2) Great Sporting Scene

If you are a sports lover, you will know the value of going to a place where sports matter.

The college sports scene is huge in Kansas when it comes to basketball, football, and baseball. Plus, the local teams also have a lot of fans among the locals. You will be able to fit right in.

3) Great Weather

The weather in Kansas is ideal for those who are looking to get away from the snow. You’re able to sit in and enjoy the warmer weather if that is something you’re into as a resident.

4) Numerous Attractions

For those who are looking to enjoy some of the setting, you’ll be able to do so in Kansas. It has many great attractions, and all of them are close to the main parts of this area. You will be able to see them easily.

This is one of the best parts of the nation to reside in and one that should be on your list as soon as possible. If you are not thinking about moving into Kansas, you are missing out on a beautiful part of America.

Kansas has culture and some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Kansas’ 45-27 loss doesn’t look like progress

Expect a Kansas football victory at your own risk.

College football’s second weekend arrived with the Jayhawks feeling encouraged. An opening game victory followed an offseason of positive talk. This was Coach Dave Beaty’s best team. He had a bona fide star in defensive end Dorance Armstrong and an offensive coordinator with an excellent reputation in Doug Meacham.

Signs pointed to progress, and the second game would be the proof. Central Michigan arrived, and expectation for a victory over a FBS opponent was at the highest point in Beaty’s three years. The mood was penned on a sign held by a fan at Memorial Stadium. “Trust the Process.”

Which makes the level of disappointment in Saturday’s 45-27 loss that much more profound.

This was a gut-punch and, as Beaty said afterwards, a reality check.

“We don’t live on perception, you live in reality, and we’re just not there yet,” Beaty said.

Not even close Saturday. Central Michigan was better prepared, and well, just better. Kansas offered little resistance against quarterback Shane Morris, a Michigan transfer who threw for five touchdowns.

The Jayhawks quarterback, Peyton Bender, set a school record with 62 passing attempts, but didn’t show the ability to escape trouble when the Chippewas brought extra defenders.

The game came crashing down on Kansas in the second quarter when they were outscored 24-0 and stunned by a Central Michigan touchdown with 6 ticks remaining before halftime, a dizzying drive that covered 90 yards in eight plays in 65 seconds.

Football wisdom suggests a team with an 11-point lead runs out the clock there, especially on the road. Instead, Central Michigan applied a dagger.

KU showed life after the break with two quick touchdowns, but the deficit was too large to overcome, especially when the Chippewas passing game proved unstoppable. The visitors responded with two unanswered touchdowns, sealing a dismal outcome for Kansas and perhaps changed the outlook on the season.

This had a look of a Kansas team that could begin to change the program’s narrative, that could remain competitive in the tough games longer and could hold its own against teams that looked similar, especially at home.

A 2-0 start, which hasn’t occurred since 2011, could have gotten the attention and attendance of some of the fan base discouraged by the years of futility.

It would have been a boost for Beaty, who inherited a mess from Charlie Weis, and took a step from a winless first year to a second season that included a victory over Texas.

But Saturday’s loss leaves the Beaty record worse than that of his two predecessors at a similar juncture. Turner Gill was 5-19 in two seasons. Weis was 6-22 when he was ushered out after four games in 2014. Weis’ last victory by the way came in Lawrence over Central Michigan.

Beaty is 3-23 with two victories over FCS opponents. It’s time to do more than trust the process, which early on had to be measured in areas other than the scoreboard.

Three recruiting classes are the work of the current regime. The walk-before-you-can-run non-conference schedule is supposed to yield results. But Saturday marked the second straight year the Jayhawks have lost, rather decisively, to a Mid-American Conference team in the second week.

An opportunity to change the tune presents itself next week when the Jayhawks visit Ohio, the MAC team that handled them in Lawrence last season. Maybe the Jayhawks will respond to the criticism they’ll hear this week and take some momentum into Big 12 play.

If that doesn’t happen, and the type of effort that doomed Kansas on Saturday persists, the program could find itself riding the carousel for a new coach once again.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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Break with superstition earns Kansas man $10,000 lottery prize

Robert Burel said he always buys Kansas Lottery scratch-offs with the number "7" or numbers that add up to "7," but on a whim he ditched the superstition and won $10,000. Photo courtesy of the Kansas Lottery

Aug. 28 (UPI) — A Kansas man said a break with his unusual superstition led him to buy a lottery ticket he normally wouldn’t have touched — and it won him $10,000.

Robert Burel told Kansas Lottery officials that he has a rule when it comes to purchasing scratch-off tickets: He only buys tickets that end in "7" or feature numbers that add up to "7."

"This one was #12, so I wasn’t going to get it, but I was feeling lucky so I went ahead and got it," Burel said.

Burel’s break from superstition turned out to be profitable — he won the top prize on the $10,000 Crossword ticket.

"I knew immediately after scratching it that the ticket was a winner," Burel said. "I started counting words and when I got to 11, I got excited. Then there were 12, and finally 13, and I started to get all jittery."

Burel, a truck driver, said the money will go toward buying his own semi so he can go into business for himself.

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Mason City’s Trout still in running for Topeka job

Officials in Topeka narrowed their choice to five candidates, including Trout, a month ago. The finalists went to Topeka in late July for interviews with the selection committee.

That group, made up of the mayor and nine City Council members, met in executive session Friday morning. They emerged saying they wanted more information concerning one or more of the candidates but did not elaborate.

They are scheduled to meet in executive session again Tuesday night. Mayor Larry Wolgast has said there won’t be any announcement about any of the candidates until a contract is in place with whoever is chosen.

Trout has been city administrator in Mason City since 2007. Other finalists are Doug Gerber, former deputy city manager and current interim city manager in Topeka who has worked for the city for three years; Jeffrey Dingman, deputy city administrator in Fort Smith, Ark., since 2011; Jason Gage, Salina, Kan., city manager since 2005; and David Hales, city manager in Bloomington, Ill., since 2008.

Trout

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Royals, Vargas face Hellickson in his Orioles debut

Jason Vargas picked up a win in his last outing Friday at Boston.

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles were criticized for not being sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline.

They are determined to prove their detractors wrong and get back in the playoff race.

Baltimore can complete a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a victory Wednesday. While Kansas City (55-50) still holds the second American League wild-card spot, Baltimore (52-54) is only 3 1/2 games behind the Royals.

The Orioles finally are getting some productive starts from their beleaguered rotation. On Monday, Ubaldo Jimenez held the Royals to one run over seven innings in a 2-1 victory. The following day, Dylan Bundy was even more impressive, throwing a career-high eight innings, allowing only one unearned run in a 7-2 win.

“We’ve got a lot of guys with a track record of pitching well,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “A couple more days and I might start looking at the standings again, so we’ll see. So far, so good. Until we take care of our business, it doesn’t matter where we are in the standings. Those are some good signs.”

The Orioles have won four straight, pulling to within two games of .500 for the first time since July 3.

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson makes his Orioles debut Wednesday after being acquired from Philadelphia on Friday. He went 6-5 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts for the Phillies this season.

Hellickson has traditionally struggled at Camden Yards, where he is 3-2 with a 5.01 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts). He allowed nine home runs in those outings.

Nonetheless, he is prepared to help the Orioles make a playoff push.

“I’m ready to help,” said Hellickson, who will be pitching on 10 days of rest. “Didn’t really follow the American League too much over there. So I got traded and looked at the standings and saw we’re only five games back, 5 1/2, whatever. So still two months of baseball to play. I’ve been part of teams that came back from nine back in a month, so it’s definitely doable.

“It is always fun to come back to and do things people say you can’t do. Will be a fun two months.”

Hellickson is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in eight career appearances (seven starts) against the Royals.

The addition of Hellickson creates a potential logjam in the rotation. If Showalter doesn’t go with a six-man rotation, then one of the starters might be used out of the bullpen.

The manager is still mulling his options.

“It’s a possibility, but there are some ways,” Showalter said about a six-man rotation. “I’d like to get to a four-man bench. You can’t burn two players with one move with a three-man bench. There are a lot of dynamics involved in that. The game changes how you manage according to your bench.”

Kansas City will look to avoid the sweep behind left-hander Jason Vargas, who had a seven-game winning streak earlier in the season.

Vargas (13-4, 3.00 ERA) picked up a win in his last outing Friday at Boston, allowing only one run and five hits over six innings. It was his only win in four July starts.

“I was just able to command a few more pitches this time,” Vargas said. “I threw some changeups wild early, but then I had better command of it.”

Vargas is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA in eight career starts against Baltimore. All three of those losses came at Camden Yards, where he has still managed a 2.76 ERA and a complete game in four appearances.

Kennedy on start vs. Orioles: ‘Not what I wanted to do’

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