WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When the Nationals signed Rafael Soriano to be their closer in the offseason, their focus shifted from the ninth inning to the eighth, where Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen would presumably split the role of setup man.
Clippard got his first crack at the eighth inning on Monday in the team's 2-0 win over the Marlins, during which he pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout and one walk. Storen answered with a scoreless eighth of his own on Wednesday night in the Nationals' 3-0 win over the Marlins. He also had one strikeout.
Before Wednesday's game, manager Davey Johnson further clarified the roles and how the bullpen is shaping up as a whole.
"Depending on the rotation, Storen's probably my backup closer, with Clip right there," Johnson said. "But basically, I like to divide the pen into A and B pens. So, like today, I'll lean more toward setting up with Storen, even with [Tuesday's] off-day.
"I like [having] a couple of long men. ... I sleep better at night in case something happens; a guy's warming up or something and gets injured, exits early or a line drive [comes] back at him. The long men are invaluable; they're kind of my security blanket."
Clippard and Storen split time last season as the team's closer. With Storen recovering from elbow surgery for much of the year, Clippard stepped in and had 32 saves. In the postseason, Storen saved Game 1 of the National League Division Series, against the Cardinals, and blew a save in Game 5.
The two right-handers, who are also close friends and roommates, said there's no eighth-inning job to be won. Both are prepared to pitch big innings and get big outs whenever they're called upon to do so.
"If I'm pitching the seventh and Drew's pitching the eighth, that doesn't mean he has a better job than me," Clippard said. "That's just not how it goes. You're getting outs in important innings regardless of whatever inning you're pitching, and that's how I see it."
Added Storen: "It's no different than what we've done before. Regardless of the situation, we know it's a big spot."
The ninth inning, however, still is Soriano's territory, and he's picked up saves in each of his first two games this season. Johnson is prepared to send Soriano out on consecutive days without hesitation, at least until he gets a better feel for the closer.
But should anything happen to Soriano, Clippard and Storen will be more than ready to fill in.
"I'm a reliever," Clippard said. "In that role you just keep an open mind, and whenever the phone rings, you've got to be ready."
Tom Schad and Andrew Simon are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.