The Mets' Jose Reyes connects on a ninth-inning two-run double...

The Mets' Jose Reyes connects on a ninth-inning two-run double against the Nationals. (Apr. 9, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

It was less than 24 hours after Jose Reyes made a play that reintroduced Citi Field to the athletic -- and enigmatic -- gem who mans the middle of the Mets' infield.

So when someone asked if he felt he had lost anything physically entering his ninth major-league season, Reyes could not help but laugh out loud.

"No, it's still there," he said before last night's game against the Nationals. "For now, it's all good. It's still there.''

As the someone who asked the question, I must note Reyes could not have been more polite and good-humored in essentially telling me I was nuts.

But given the wear and tear on his still only 27-year-old body, which is coming off two injury-plagued seasons, it did not seem unfair to wonder about the Mets' longest-serving current player.

Not to worry. "The last two years, people know how hard it was for me,'' he said. "I worked hard to recover my speed. I got it back, 100 percent.''

That was the word out of spring training. But Friday was the first chance for fans to see for themselves in Queens.

Reyes delivered in the fifth when he dived to the left to stab a hard ground ball from Rick Ankiel with the bases loaded and started an inning-ending double play.

Two innings later, he showed his flip side with an undisciplined at-bat in which he struck out with runners on second and third, one out and the Mets down a run.

"I just wanted to put the ball in play,'' he said. "I don't like when I strike out. I don't like that at all. I know when I put the ball in play, I'm going to put pressure on the ballplayers on the field.''

Reyes entered Saturday night having led off five games in a row with a hit. That streak ended only because he began by working his first walk of the season in an eight-pitch at-bat.

Then he stole second. Then he scored on Carlos Beltran's first home run . . . 2-0, Mets.

In the third, he did it to Ankiel again, running down his looping drive in short leftfield with the bases loaded.

But in the fifth, Ryan Zimmerman's sharp one-hopper bounced off his glove for a hit, and in the bottom of the inning, he flied out to left with Chris Capuano on second. That dropped him to 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. He made it 1-for-11 with a two-run double in the eighth.

Before the game, manager Terry Collins said of Reyes: "He's done exactly what I've wanted him to do, and that is be in scoring position constantly. And he has played tremendous defense. He is healthy. His legs are in great shape. His body is in great shape.''

Reyes' future likely will be the most closely watched personnel decision of the season. His contract is up, and the Mets must decide whether to re-sign or unload him.

Fans seemed to register a vote with a warm greeting on Opening Day. Reception duly noted.

"I love them, and they like me, too,'' Reyes said. "The last couple of years have been kind of tough for me. I feel like I still have something to prove to people -- to stay healthy and play my game.''

Reyes repeated what he has said before: that he would like to remain a Met.

"I want to be here,'' he said. "It's not a secret in anybody's mind . . . At the same time, I don't know what's going to happen.''

Can he envision himself here for another decade, establishing the sort of longevity the other shortstop in town has enjoyed?

Reyes laughed again, then said, "Want to, bro.''