Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets pops up a...

Ruben Tejada of the New York Mets pops up a 10th-inning sacrifice bunt attempt against the Atlanta Braves during the conclusion of their suspended game at Citi Field. (May 25, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Ruben Tejada returned to the Mets Tuesday and immediately went out to take early batting practice at Citi Field.

Apparently, no dental implements were required to get him to do it.

Tejada, the Mets' Opening Day shortstop, had his work ethic questioned last Tuesday by general manager Sandy Alderson. Speaking on WFAN, Alderson said "it's like pulling teeth" to get Tejada to do extra work.

Tejada was recalled from his summer exile at Triple-A Las Vegas. Manager Terry Collins said he will play the 23-year-old starting Wednesday night.

In what could be taken as a sign the Mets have not given up on Tejada, the team waited an extra day to call him up so they could delay his free-agent eligibility until 2017.

An even better sign could be that Collins said Tejada has a chance to win his old spot back.

"I just want Ruben to understand that job's his for the taking," Collins said before the Mets' 6-3 loss to the Nationals. "Go get it. Go grab and don't lose it. But there's some things that have got to be done to keep it."

Tejada was batting .209 and was in danger of being demoted when he went on the disabled list May 30 with a quadriceps strain. When he was healthy, the Mets decided to keep him in Triple-A, where he hit .288 with two home runs and 24 RBIs in 60 games.

Asked if Alderson's comments bothered him, Tejada said: "No. The big thing is I know I work hard. That's why I come here every day. It's my job. I don't come here to do anything bad. I'm from Panama. It's a long way to here to work and to help my family."

Notes & quotes: Dillon Gee (11-10) allowed four runs in 61/3 innings as the Nationals hit three home runs to back Jordan Zimmermann (17-8). Matt den Dekker had a two-run single for the Mets . . . Justin Turner left in the seventh inning with a strained right hamstring . . . Bobby Parnell had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. Alderson said he expects the closer to be ready for spring training . . . Reliever Scott Rice had surgery to repair two sports hernias . . . The Mets will face the Toronto Blue Jays at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in a pair of exhibition games next March 28 and 29.