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Inbox: Will Cobb provide bigger boost next year?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers questions from Tampa Bay fans
MLB.com @wwchastain

I can't help but be impressed by how well Alex Cobb has pitched since returning from Tommy John surgery. How much better do you think the staff will be next season with Cobb pitching at the top?
-- Hank E., Tampa, Fla.

I've been impressed with Cobb's return as well. However, I can't say I'm surprised. Before having his surgery, I thought Cobb was the top pitcher on a loaded staff. Not only does he have great stuff and great control, he strikes me as mentally tough. I also forgot how good Cobb was. I think the staff will be improved with his return. And from everything I've heard and observed, Cobb is a strong and positive influence in the clubhouse.

I can't help but be impressed by how well Alex Cobb has pitched since returning from Tommy John surgery. How much better do you think the staff will be next season with Cobb pitching at the top?
-- Hank E., Tampa, Fla.

I've been impressed with Cobb's return as well. However, I can't say I'm surprised. Before having his surgery, I thought Cobb was the top pitcher on a loaded staff. Not only does he have great stuff and great control, he strikes me as mentally tough. I also forgot how good Cobb was. I think the staff will be improved with his return. And from everything I've heard and observed, Cobb is a strong and positive influence in the clubhouse.

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Sometimes Kevin Cash brings his relievers in too early and other times too late. I'm wondering if owner Stuart Sternberg sees the same thing and is looking for a new manager.
-- Kevin W., St. Petersburg

I do think learning when to stand pat and when to make a move is a learned skill. However, sometimes it doesn't matter which button a manager pushes; it's not going to work. Yes, the Rays have underperformed this season, Cash's second at the helm. Still, I would be surprised to see Tampa Bay make a move.

Video: TB@TOR: Miller homers for back-to-back jacks in 7th

With all the home runs the Rays have hit this season, why haven't they won more games? Are home runs just up this season? Or does Tampa Bay just have a collection of home run hitters who can't do anything else?
-- Bob W., Dade City, Fla.

The Rays have hit a boatload of home runs this season (205 entering play Tuesday), setting a single-season club record, with plenty of games remaining in the season to expand that number. Unfortunately, those home runs have not translated to a lot more runs. They rank high in home runs (4th in the American League), but low in the number of runs scored (11th). Yes, Tampa Bay does have a collection of guys who can hit home runs, though they aren't necessarily considered home run hitters, per se. In talking to Brad Miller, who has set a career high for home runs this season, he believes the team's ability to go deep will pay off in the long run. But he noted that the team must find a way to do the little things right to accompany all the power if they want to become a winning team. I'd have to go along with Miller's sentiment. If you look back at the 2016 season, the Rays lost a bunch of close games. Meanwhile, they won quite a few of lopsided ones.

Video: TB@BOS: Betts nabs Kiermaier at 2nd, prevents a run

Have we seen the last of Tim Beckham? He obviously has some talent, but he doesn't seem to be able to harness that talent on a consistent basis. I'm all in with what the team chose to do after Beckham's lack of hustle when he jogged home and his run didn't count because Kevin Kiermaier was thrown out on the play.
-- Brian R., Lakeland, Fla.

I'm not exactly sure what the Rays told Beckham when they sent him down, but it didn't appear they were too happy with his effort. I'm with you regarding Beckham's talent. There are nights when he can look like the best player on the field, and other nights, not so much. With the addition of Matt Duffy as the everyday shortstop and Miller moving to first, Tampa Bay appears to have solidified its infield heading into next season. Beckham once seemed to be on a faster track than Nick Franklin, but Franklin's play this year  appears to have put some separation between him and Beckham. So I wouldn't be surprised if Beckham's time with the Rays is drawing to a close. The window of opportunity only remains open for so long.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Alex Cobb