Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury took great pains Tuesday to explain how he feels about playing through pain.

“I’m willing to play through pain,” Ellsbury said after his latest rehab game (of a 20-day assignment) with the Pawtucket Red Sox who beat Durham, 5-4. “That’s never been an issue. That’s never been a problem for me. It’s just knowing that when I do play through it, it’s not going to make my situation worse.

“That’s the biggest thing – not making my situation worse. I’ll play through any kind of pain, just as long as it doesn’t jeopardize my career and make the situation worse where I’m not helping the team.”

Ellsbury, who admittedly is still feeing the effects of five hairline fractures in his left rib cage, declined to speculate on when he might be able to return to Boston.

“When I come back, I want to play every single day,” he said. “I’m going back to Boston and will be in the dugout (last night). I’ll talk to the team and re-evaluate it and see where we’re at.

“I don’t want to say anything. I’ll talk to the doctors and let them know what I was feeling. I’m pretty happy with the way things went today, but we’ll put a game plan together and go from there.”

Ellsbury, who batted leadoff as Pawtucket’s D.H., was 3 for 5 with one run and one RBI.

Overall, in his three games with Pawtucket, Ellsbury’s hitting .500 (7 for 14) with one double, three runs and one RBI.
Perhaps one obvious question is why he D.H.’d instead of playing center field like he did in his previous two games.

“I don’t know the exact reason,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “That’s what was told to me. I think the most important thing right now is to get him some reps and get him some at-bats. I think, defensively, he’s ready to go.

“Offensively is where they want to fine-tune him a little bit. When the day’s done, I feel very comfortable knowing that if I get that call from ‘Tito’ (manager Terry Francona) I can say he’s ready to go.”

Ellsbury led the first by flaring an off-field single to left against lefty Mike Ekstrom and eventually scored from third on Josh Reddick’s infield hit.

He pulled a single to right in the second against Ekstrom, and in the fourth against right-hander Darrin Downs, he crushed a 3-1 pitch to right-center for an RBI double.

Since center fielder Justin Ruggiano didn’t field the ball cleanly, it appeared Ellsbury could have stretched the hit into a triple instead of slowing down as he neared second base.

“There wasn’t any sense in doing anything crazy right now because I’m trying to get back as quickly as possible,” he said. “That’s been the toughest thing, being away and not playing. I’ve always played hard and put my body on the line.”

Ellsbury lined out to left against righty Dale Thayer in the sixth and linied out to first against lefty R.J. Swindle in the ninth on a 1-2 pitch.