By his own admission, it's been a long year for A.J. Jimenez.
The Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect started last season at Double-A New Hampshire as a soon-to-be 22-year-old. He was holding his own through 27 games before an injury to his right elbow required season-ending Tommy John surgery in May and didn't return to the Fisher Cats until last Tuesday after a nearly year-long rehab procss.
"It's good to be here," he said. "I'm glad I'm 100 percent ready to play, and I'm just so happy that I can play now. Now I'm ready to rumble."
He, along with the rest of the New Hampshire lineup, did a little more than that Sunday afternoon.
Jimenez went 5-for-6 with two doubles, five runs scored and three RBIs as the designated hitter in the Fisher Cats' 22-1 shellacking of Erie at Northeast Delta Dental.
The performance was the first five-hit game of his six-year Minor League career and tied the franchise's single-game high. It also marked the first time he had crossed the plate five times in a single contest.
The team's 22-run output fell one shy of its franchise best, established on May 22, 2006 against Connecticut, and came one day after the SeaWolves routed the Fisher Cats, 16-2, on Saturday.
"It was awesome," said Jimenez, who plated the first run with a single in the first inning. "Everybody was swinging early and getting pitches to hit. Just get a fastball early in the count and try to hit it the best you can. That's what everybody was able to do.
"[After yesterday], we always stayed positive, tried to feel good and talked about the pitchers we'd be facing. Even after a bad game, you have to come back and try to have a good day today. It wasn't that much fun yesterday, so we tried to change that today."
That didn't seem to be much of an issue in the first few innings.
Jimenez's RBI base hit in the first was followed by a two-run homer by Brad Glenn and another solo shot from Adam Loewen. The Puerto Rico native doubled in the beginning of a five-run third and added another leadoff two-bagger -- followed by a two-out RBI single -- in the eight-run fourth. His afternoon concluded with an RBI single in a four-run eighth.
The right-handed slugger, who created a reputation as a defensively sound catcher before the injury, took his spot at designated hitter for the second time since his return from the injury. (His first came in a rehab stint with Class A Advanced Dunedin.) Before that, he hadn't worked as a DH since June 15, 2011 in the Florida State League. But that didn't mean he approached the game any differently.
"I had the same mind-set like I was catching," Jimenez said. "I don't entirely know how to work really as a DH, so I just wanted to stay active like a catcher and be prepared for anything because that's what works for me. … I would run inside in between innings because it was warmer in there and tried stretching all the time to stay loose."
The organization's plan for Jimenez going forward is to play him two games in a row before getting a day of rest. Sunday marked the second game of such a cycle, but with a day off for the Fisher Cats on Monday, he will return to the lineup when New Hampshire visits Altoona on Tuesday.
Although his production isn't expected to be repeated in that contest, the 23-year-old hopes it's the stepping stone for what should be a healthier, more productive and overall longer stay with New Hampshire.
"You just have to stay positive," he said. "We'll have a nice day off, come back on Tuesday and plan to do all the same things that helped us out today."
Loewen finished 4-for-6 with two homers and five RBIs. Shortstop Kevin Nolan went 3-for-6 with two doubles and five RBIs. No. 5 Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman (3-1) earned the win after giving up one run on three hits and one walk in six innings.