Hailing from Panorama City, California, standing at 6’5″, and weighing 230 pounds, Hiljus was an intimidating presence on the mound, but lacked the control to pitch effectively on a regular basis. After four years in the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals organizations as a starter, Hiljus went down with a shoulder injury which cost him the whole 1997 season.
After the injury, Hiljus moved to the bullpen and enjoyed a measure of success. He averaged 12.27 strikeouts per nine innings for the Tigers’ Double-A ball in 1998, but struggled in two stints with the big-league club in 1999 and 2000. In 2001, he made the A’s after being invited to camp in as a non-roster invitee, and went 5-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 66 innings in his first full major-league season.