Hart has had to play the outfield more since the Mariners traded for designated hitter Kendrys Morales on July 24, and he says that extra time exposed the lingering issue of knees that underwent a pair of microfracture surgeries that forced him to miss all of last year with the Brewers.
"It's nice to be back and part of a competitive team, and I love the group," Hart said. "But I think I was trying to give myself false hope. The legs were never there. Hopefully, they get back sooner than later. I'd love to come back pretty quick and be competitive, but right now, I'm not competitive and that's because I haven't had the legs to help me. Hopefully, these guys get it fixed pretty quick."
Hart, a two-time National League All-Star, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Mariners, who hoped his bat could help a club that needed right-handed help. But he's hit .203/.278/.314 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 58 games this season, including .194 with three doubles and three RBIs in 21 games since returning from a strained left hamstring.
Hart said the tipping point came when he crashed into the right-field wall trying to catch a deep drive on Thursday in Cleveland.
"I woke up feeling pretty bad, but I still wanted to play," Hart said. "It's been going on for a little bit. My legs, when I play the field, the next day is really rough. I kept trying to fight it, but it got to the point where I was tired of hitting balls and they weren't going anywhere because I don't have legs. That just kind of put it over the top. I probably shouldn't have played yesterday, but I was still trying to find it."
Hart had a long conversation with manager Lloyd McClendon after his 0-for-4 outing in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Orioles, and the club placed him on the DL on Saturday.
"From what he was saying, that play in right field in Cleveland where he fell awkwardly hurt it pretty good," McClendon said. "He didn't really say anything. He wanted to stay in the lineup. But yesterday, he hit a ball right on the nose to center field and realized he had no legs under him. He went in and talked to the trainers and this is probably the best course of action for him.
"He really didn't complain until last night," McClendon said. "He's a proud guy. He probably just figured he couldn't go any further."
Hart's playing time figured to diminish with the arrival of Morales and a pair of outfielders in Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia prior to Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Those players were acquired in large part because of the club's need for right-handed hitters, which Hart still would love to provide as well if he can get healthy.
"I feel like I should be back," Hart said. "I know there's only two months left, so I'd love to get back and be competitive for the last month. But I don't want to come back and be doing what I've been doing. I want to make sure when I get back that I'm 100 percent.
"I think I just came back too quick and tried to overdo it. I think playing the field made it worse for me. DH was OK, but getting on the field was a little too much for me. I tried to act like it wasn't, but it just was."
The club was going to need to open a roster spot for Paxton regardless, as the lefty came off the 60-day DL, and McClendon said Hart's situation made that decision easier.
The Mariners will stay for now with a 13-man pitching staff, including an eight-man bullpen that has been outstanding.
"It has been a strength, and we've got an opportunity to keep it intact," McClendon said. "But I'm not sure how long that's going to last because we have Interleague Play coming up [when the Mariners travel to Philadelphia on Aug. 18], and we'll have to do something at that point."
Right-handed pitcher Blake Beavan was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for Paxton on the 40-man roster. Beavan has been pitching for Tacoma the last few weeks after coming off the 60-day DL with a strained right shoulder. He cleared waivers and will remain with the Rainiers but is no longer on the 40-man roster.