The 6-foot-6 right-hander is one of six pitchers fighting for two spots in the A's rotation.
One of six pitchers battling for two spots in the A's starting rotation, Hiljus
is spending this spring trying to overcome another one of his
ideas gone bad.
"Sometimes I wonder if somebody's trying to tell me something," he
said through one of his
frequent wide smiles.
made the A's Opening Day rotation last year, he
thought it would be good exercise -- and kind of cool -- if he
rode a bike to work each day.
So while teammates drove their fancy cars home after games, Hiljus
could be seen pedaling through Alameda County around midnight most nights.
And though it seemed to him like a good idea at the time, the constant hunching over led to a neck injury that ruined another season and kept his
dream on hold.
"I still believe in destiny," Hiljus
said."Hopefully, this will only make me stronger."
And, if adversity makes a person stronger, Hiljus
should be wearing a cape by now.
A shoulder injury wiped out half his
season at Double-A Arkansas in 1996 and the entire 1997 season.In, 1999, he
underwent knee surgery during spring training. Hiljus
recovered to make his
major-league debut with Detroit that September and hoped his
bad luck was over.That's why this most recent injury is so vexing.
first surgery, nobody would give him a chance to become a starter again until the A's signed him to a minor-league contract in 2001.The A's recalled Hiljus
after 15 starts in Sacramento.And when buzzards started circling over Gil Heredia, Hiljus
joined Oakland's rotation Aug. 1.
"It wasn't a muscle problem, it was a structural problem with my neck and spine caused by my hunching over the bike," Hiljus
Finally healthy, Hiljus
is carrying around a harness that attaches under his
hangs from it to stretch out his
has also ditched the bike, opting for a skateboard as his
primary means of transportation in the desert.
ready to reclaim his
spot in the A's rotation.
"I feel like I'm competing against myself this spring," he
The difference between starting the season in Oakland and returning to Sacramento is about $250,000 in salary.But he
maintains it's not about the dough.
"I'm not in this game for the money," he
said."I'd rather have health for me and my family.Of course, that's easy to say because I haven't made any money yet.
"The way I look at it, this has just been another chapter in my strange life.I still want to pitch till I'm 40.