Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro says that he is hopeful that declining COVID-19 case counts will allow his club to return to the Rogers Centre sometime this season.

The Blue Jays played their entire home schedule at their AAA ballpark in Buffalo last season after the federal government refused to grant an exception to the Quarantine Act that would have allowed them to play in Toronto.

This year the club will be starting its season at its spring training complex in Florida but also plan to play some games in Buffalo with the hope being that they will still be able to head north at some point later this summer once case counts decline.

“I am an optimist and the one thing I would tell you is there is no doubt and no question of where we want to be and where we want to play and that is back home on Canadian soil and in the Rogers Centre but the circumstances that will dictate that are far out of our control and I think obvious to everyone,” Shapiro said during an interview with CP24 Breakfast on Friday morning. “We need to see greater access, distribution and taking of the vaccines and we need to see numbers come down in both the U.S. and at home in Canada. If those things continue to happen and the trajectory is a good one then I think you will see us back at the Rogers Centre this season.”

The Blue Jays made a surprise return to the playoffs during last year’s pandemic-shortened season and the hopes are high for this year’s team following the high-profile off-season additions of star outfielder George Springer and shortstop Marcus Semien.

The Blue Jays are also counting on continued improvement from homegrown stars like Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Speaking with CP24, Shapiro said that he believes the team is ready to at least challenge for a World Series championship but he said that it is still an “imperfect” roster that will likely need improvements to its starting pitching rotation at some point.

Shapiro, however, said that he believes the “core is in place” and that the Blue Jays are built to contend for years to come.

“I do think that any baseball executive is going to tell you that you can never have enough pitching and the other reality is that what you think when you plan a team is not really what happens so you have to have the ability and capability to adjust as the season goes along.” He said. “162 games is a lot of games. We do our best to play out every scenario and be in position to make adjustments but if I had to guess right now starting pitching is an area that we are going to have to add to. This offseason we added where the opportunities were and they weren’t in that area.”

The Blue Jays will host at least their first two home stands in Florida.

Their season opener is scheduled for April 1 against the New York Yankees.