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Wrong Erik Hiljus?

Erik Hiljus

Contributor

Sacramento Bee

HQ Phone: (916) 321-1000

Sacramento Bee

2100 Q Street

Sacramento, California 95816

United States

Company Description

The Sacramento Bee is the oldest newspaper of The McClatchy Company and the second-largest newspaper in Northern California. In addition to the daily paper, The Bee publishes three leading local websites , sacbee.com, SacTicket.com and Sacramento.com , of ... more

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Background Information

Web References


The Sacramento Bee -- sacbee.com -- Life throws A's Hiljus many curves

www.sacbee.com, $reference.date [cached]

Erik Hiljus

The 6-foot-6 right-hander is one of six pitchers fighting for two spots in the A's rotation.
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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.
When Hiljus 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.
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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.
After his 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.
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"It wasn't a muscle problem, it was a structural problem with my neck and spine caused by my hunching over the bike," Hiljus said.
Finally healthy, Hiljus is carrying around a harness that attaches under his chin.He hangs from it to stretch out his neck.He has also ditched the bike, opting for a skateboard as his primary means of transportation in the desert.
And he's ready to reclaim his spot in the A's rotation.
"I feel like I'm competing against myself this spring," he said.
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.

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