In either capacity, the White Sox manager preached patience and communication in regard to the veteran right-hander during a 10-minute stretch in Saturday's pregame media session at U.S. Cellular Field.
"Very bad and very sad situation," said Guillen, when asked about Zambrano clearing out his locker after being ejected from Friday's 10-4 loss to the Braves. Zambrano left the ballpark immediately and told some in the clubhouse he was retiring. Zambrano was placed on the disqualified list on Saturday.
"It's tough situation with how the manager is going to handle that because he's very intense about respect, loyalty and whatever you guys name it," Guillen continued. "On the other side of the problem, this kid has got a lot of pride.
"This kid is embarrassed. This kid wants to be good. He wants his team to be good. And I think he feels like he's not doing his job. This kid is a very emotional kid. A lot of people -- and I don't take anything away from what people say.
"People say what they want to say with a lot of rights and he deserves to be treated like that, the way we treat him today. But in another part of the situation, I don't think too many people know why he's acting that way."
Guillen made it clear that the Zambrano issue certainly was not his to deal with, as he has plenty to worry about concerning his up-and-down team on the South Side of Chicago. Guillen also said that his wife, Ibis, spoke briefly to Zambrano on Friday night, but Guillen had not talked with him.
"I was not in the right mood either to have a conversation with him," said Guillen with a smile, referring to his team's 5-1 loss to the Royals. "I'm the last person you want to talk to last night. I got feedback a little bit talking with my family. I hope people understand his point.
"Obviously it's going to be hard, but just stick with him. Listen to what he says. As for how they're going to handle it, that's their problem. But I talk as a friend, not as a manager, and hopefully things work out for him better than he is right now."
No player has ever walked out on Guillen, although he does remember one time where he packed up one player's belongings and threw them outside in the tunnel near the White Sox clubhouse. Guillen mentioned that 2005 situation involving Damaso Marte, who showed up late for an injury rehab session and provided the wrong answer when asked why he was late.
Marte, who was not mentioned by name on Saturday, was allowed to return to the team and contributed to the White Sox World Series championship. Zambrano's return to the Cubs might be a little less likely, although Guillen admitted he's had the same inclination to give up as Zambrano has on many occasions.
"You know how many times I want to quit? I can't because I love this game. So does [Zambrano]," Guillen said. "I guarantee in two or three more days he'll be thinking 'Oh my God, what did I do?' I know that. Everybody did.
"And believe me, I don't know really what happened, but I guarantee you he feels more embarrassed than anything else. About his performance. Not 100 percent for sure, but knowing him, I'm pretty sure that's the way he feels."
When Zambrano melted down during a game on June 25, 2010 at U.S. Cellular and was suspended by the Cubs, Guillen and his family dined with Zambrano later that evening. Guillen still considers Zambrano a good friend, through all of his trials and tribulations.
Ultimately, though, it's about respect. Guillen demands it of his team, and believes it will be a key factor in finding a resolution to the Zambrano controversy.
"Like I've said in the past, hate me, love me, I don't care what you do. I really don't," Guillen said. "But one thing about it, respect. That's all I care about with players. If you respect me and respect the game, you can go out and tell your wife how much you hate me.
"That's part of the game, because I hate them, too, because I did tell my wife how much I hate them. And I tell my wife how much I love them. Not because they're playing bad, because it gets to the point like, 'Wow.' I hate them because it's personal or whatever it is.
"I've got 25 guys there and I'm not saying everybody loves me. But as long as they respect me and respect my coaching staff, everything is fine with me. Win games for me. Just hate me and make sure we shake hands after the game. I don't get paid here to make friends.
"Sometimes people forget and sometimes people make mistakes, and we have to live with it," Guillen added. "The only thing about it, can you learn when you make mistakes? If you learn from that, people will forgive you. But if you're going to make mistakes day in and day out, some people aren't going to believe where you come from."