BRADENTON -- When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Nick Kingham in 2010, they were getting a big right-handed arm to develop.
Now in 2015, the 23-year-old former Bradenton Marauder has morphed into the franchise's sixth-best prospect, according to Baseball America, due to his molding in the minors to become a guy who can pitch.
On Monday, Kingham started for the Black team in the annual Black and Gold intrasquad scrimmage at McKechnie Field.
The Black team defeated the Gold team, 2-1, in the 5½ inning game, which sent proceeds from the $8 general admission to benefit Wakeland Elementary, Rogers Elementary and the Manatee County Education Foundation.
In his lone inning of work, Kingham allowed one hit out of the four batters he faced. It came against Pittsburgh right fielder Gregory Polanco. That hit, though, only meant Kingham had the chance to utilize his stuff against starting left fielder Starling Marte, whom he had never faced before Monday's encounter.
He got Marte to fly out to right field to end the first inning, while throwing nine of his 12 pitches for strikes.
"Just getting ahead makes the job a whole lot easier," said Kingham, who is in his first major-league camp. "Get ahead, put the pressure on the hitter and then you can throw whatever you want. So that's kind of what I went out and did (Monday)."
Added manager Clint Hurdle: "It's a one inning look, so we're not going to overcook it. He threw strikes. He worked quick and efficiently, so it was a nice one inning outing for Nick."
The start at McKechnie, where he collected mid-season All-Star honors in 2013 with the Marauders during
his lone season in the Florida State League, brought back memories for Kingham.
The fondest one was his 13-strikeout game in his fifth start with the high-A club against Brevard County in late April, 2013.
It was memorable because of what it did for Kingham's development on the mound.
Former Bradenton pitching coach Justin Meccage, who is now with Double-A Altoona, took away Kingham's breaking ball after the second inning. That meant he had two pitches to work with: a fastball and a change-up. Yet, Kingham racked up a successful six innings.
"From that point on, the change-up became my favorite pitch to throw," he said. "That was really a turning point in how I pitch now."
Going from not relying on a curveball to get somebody out with a swing-and-miss effort meant Kingham said he learned how to enforce contact and put pressure on the opposing hitters.
Another key facet to his maturation on the bump has been understanding his body better.
"I know how to use my legs more when I pitch, so I don't get as tired," Kingham said. "I was kind of just draining myself in the early innings. I'm more consistent."
Kingham's development through Meccage and Stan Kyles' (Triple-A Indianapolis pitching coach) tutelage has brought him here to 2015, where he's on the 40-man roster and looking to make the decision as hard as possible on the Pirates on where he'll land at the conclusion of the spring.
But no matter where he ends up, Kingham said he'll be ready whenever his time comes.
"You see guys going up all the time," he said. "Teammates going up and you kind of wish it was you. But at the same time, you know the time when it is your time, it'll be the right time."
And that mindset showcases just how much he's learned since 2010 when the Pirates selected him the fourth round.
"I feel like I'm a completely different pitcher," Kingham said. "You don't notice it along the way, but looking back I definitely feel like I'm not the same guy I was when I was 18 years old and first signed. I'm proud of where I'm at right now. The coaching staff and everybody that helped me develop; I owe a huge thanks to them for molding me into who I am today."
Ticket sales doing well
The Pirates are close to getting another standing room-only game on the cards. The night game against Detroit on Wednesday, March 18, and both games against the Boston Red Sox (Thursday, March 12, and Saturday, March 21) have long been in the standing-room only category.
The New York Yankees game, which is set for Thursday at 1:05 p.m., is close to being there, said Pittsburgh's senior director of Florida operations, Trevor Gooby.
And if the weather cooperates this spring, like Monday's warm, sun-splashed intrasquad contest, then a good turnout is expected. "Weather like this," Gooby said, "it's going to be good."