The Nationals moved right-handed reliever Ryan Perry from Class AAA Syracuse to Class AA Harrisburg this week not as a demotion, but as an experiment. The Nationals are converting Perry, a former first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers, from a reliever into a starter.

Perry spent all of May in the Nationals’ bullpen, allowing nine earned runs in eight innings. With Ryan Mattheus healthy and Drew Storen closing in on his return, the Nationals shipped Perry back to the minors. And now they’re starting him down a new career path.

In his career, Perry has a 4.36 ERA in 169 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. He has yet to realize the promise the Tigers saw in him when they chose him with the 21st overall pick in 2008. Perry reached the majors in 2009, but he never had a chance to start. The Nationals will see if starting allows Perry to uncover more the potential in an arm that can throw fastballs in the high 90s.

The Nationals acquired Perry, 25, this winter in a trade that sent Collin Balester to the Tigers. (Balester has since been designated for assignment and is pitching at Class AAA Toledo.) There’s no guarantee that his transition to starting will work, but it’s an interesting plan for a pitcher whose raw talent has yet to translate into significant major league success.