CHICAGO — With the rehab stints of Corey Hart and Justin Smoak almost reaching their limit, the Mariners made a pair of roster moves before the game Friday to address the situations of both players.

Hart was activated from the disabled list and placed on the 25-man roster. To make room for Hart, outfielder Cole Gillespie was designated for assignment.

Smoak also was activated from the disabled list and then optioned to Class AAA Tacoma.

Hart, who has been on the DL since May 19 with a strained hamstring, played left field for the Rainiers on Thursday night — a sign his legs were starting to become strong enough to make a return. In 10 rehab games with Tacoma, Hart hit .297 (11 for 37) with three doubles, a triple, a homer and four RBI. He was in the Mariners’ lineup Friday, batting fourth as the designated hitter and he went 0 for 3 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly.

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“I feel fine,” Hart said before the game. “Nothing hurts. My legs are coming back. I’m not as fast as I want to be right now, but I can do everything without hurting myself or re-injuring it.”

Gillespie appeared in 34 games for Seattle, hitting .254 (18 for 71) with two doubles, a homer and five RBI. He has played just twice since July 25.

Smoak’s demotion wasn’t unexpected with the way Logan Morrison has been playing in his absence. Smoak had struggled before being placed on the DL. His batting average had dropped to .208. After getting his batting average up to .250 and his OPS to .752 on May 7, he hit .163 (17 for 104) with three homers and nine RBI and 28 strikeouts and a .528 OPS over the next 32 games. And he hasn’t been hitting much better in his rehab stint in Tacoma with a .204 average (10 for 49) with three doubles, a homer and three RBI and a .599 OPS.

“It’s tough, but LoMo is playing well and provided a big lift for us,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Smoaky will continue to get at-bats there and get sharp. Listen, at some point, he’ll be helping this club again. He just needs to work on skills. He’s a major-league player. He just has to bide his time there, stay healthy, get his at-bats and swing the bat good.”

Paxton throws bullpen session

James Paxton threw a pain-free, 52-pitch bullpen session before the game. He said he’s scheduled to throw a two-inning simulated game Tuesday at Safeco Field. Paxton was supposed to throw only 45 pitches, but he felt so good he kept going.

“We did some simulated hitters at the end,” he said. “I was feeling really good. So they said do three hitters and everything was great.”

Paxton said he threw all of his pitches, and increased the number of curveballs in this session.

“It was good,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to the next step.”

Paxton doesn’t know how the velocity was compared to before, admitting he doesn’t judge it that well.

“It was coming out of my hand really easy,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to throw hard. It was just popping out of my hand and making a good sound when it hit the mitt. So it seems like it was pretty good.”

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or rdivish@seattletimes.com.