April 11, 2010: Left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox catches a ball up against the wall hit by Yuniesky Betancourt of the Kansas City Royals in the sixth inning at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Red Sox won 8-6.

If there was a defining moment during the second game of Jacoby Ellsbury’s rehab assignment with Pawtucket, it occurred during the fourth inning yesterday against the Durham Bulls at McCoy Stadium.

Durham’s Chris Richard crushed a Ramon Ramirez pitch over the fence in right-center for a solo home run.

Ellsbury, who again batted leadoff and played center field, scaled the fence and came within inches of making a spectacular catch.

Given the athletic ability needed to make such a play, it was noteworthy considering the Boston outfielder is recuperating from hairline fractures in four ribs in his left side – plus subsequent “discomfort” after he played three games with the Red Sox (May 22-24).

“Jacoby jumped the wall and he said he barely missed the ball,” PawSox manager Torey Lovullo said. “It looked like it was 10 feet over his head. But when he said he barely missed it, I believe him.

“When you make moves like that and you’re talking about agility and strength, and reading the ball — and you see plays like that — it’s very satisfying. He’s ready.”

As far as Ellsbury was concerned, playing defense — even on plays like Richard’s home run — is the least of his problems.

“It’s always been the swinging aspect of it,” Ellsbury said after going 2 for 5 with one run scored. “I can run, jump and do that sort of thing. It’s always been that rotational thing … swinging.

“These games definitely are a good indication that I feel a little bit better.”

Besides the near-miss on Richard’s homer, Ellsbury caught two fly balls — including one by Angel Chavez on the warning track. But one object of Boston’s concern was how Ellsbury would feel yesterday after playing Saturday night, given the short turn-around time.

“It’s going to be sore … mainly the lat around the area where the injury occurred,” he said. “But I’m still feeling a lot better.

“These games are very important in the sense of getting timing and seeing how it’s going to respond to game activity.”

Ellsbury batted three times against Durham left-hander Heath Phillips.

He pulled the ball down the first base line in the first and was barely nipped on a throw from Joe Dillon to Phillips.

Ellsbury led the third by ripping a 1-0 pitch that ate up Dillon and zipped into right field for a single. He eventually scored from second on Daniel Nava’s single.

Ellsbury then lined out to center on a 1-1 pitch in the fifth.

Phillips was replaced by another left-hander, Darin Downs, in the sixth and Ellsbury lined out to left field.

And in the ninth, against righty Joe Batemen, Ellsbury singled to right field.

What’s next?

“I’ll let (Boston) know how today went,” Ellsbury said. “We’ll put a game plan in place for the next couple of days and see where I’m at.”