Who will replace Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning?

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Jul 31, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher

Aaron Barrett

(30) throws during the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Option 2: Test the youngsters…

While the Nationals have several proven veterans that could step into the eighth inning role, they have an even greater number of young arms that could be on the verge of becoming dominant, late-inning relievers. Some of these pitchers include Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen and A.J. Cole.

Barrett made the big league club out of Spring Training last season and, apart from a brief demotion to Triple-A Syracuse, he did not disappoint. The right-hander went 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA in 40 2/3 innings with the Nationals last season and was one of the most reliable weapons out of the bullpen all season long.

Barret’s dominance in the regular season earned him a spot on the team’s NLDS roster, but he looked nothing like his regular season self under the pressure of the postseason. In the seventh inning of Game 4 against the Giants, Barrett issued a costly walk, threw two wild pitches and retired only one batter while allowing the  losing run to score – an unraveling that ultimately helped the Giants win the series in four games.

Treinen is another intriguing option for the Nationals. The right-hander profiles more as a starter, but his high-90’s sinker could be a huge weapon for the Nationals late in the game.

Treinen not only got some valuable major league experience last season, but he was also very successful on the mound during his time with the big league club, going 2-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 15 games (seven starts).

Cole, the team’s No.2 prospect, will have to fight his way onto the Nationals’ bullpen this spring and, since he is on track to join the Nationals’ rotation as early as 2016, it’s unlikely that he’ll be placed in a late-inning relief role. That said, the right-hander was dominant at Double-A and Triple-A last season and could be a major asset for the Nationals’ bullpen in 2015.