It's a question the affable and popular right-hander soon will have to answer through his on-field actions, and not through his words, if he wants to hang on to his fourth spot in the White Sox rotation.
"I talked to him and said, 'How does [Mark] Buehrle get people out and [Bartolo] Colon throws 96 of 97 fastballs and gets people out, and you have some of the best stuff in the game and what's going on?'" Guillen said. "I wonder what's going through his mind. His concentration is gone. The last couple outings ..."
The White Sox manager briefly paused before providing an example representing the struggles of the winless Contreras that perfectly captured Guillen's entertaining but direct nature. Guillen pointed out how trying to get Contreras on the right side of his mound woes is like pursuing a woman for a date.
Just when you think she's ready to go out with you, she dumps you for another guy.
"That's exactly how I feel," said Guillen with a bit of an exasperated smile. "We almost got Jose back, and all of a sudden, she has another boyfriend. She dumps you. Same way. I have to wait for next week.
"It's on and off. I'm not tired about it, but I'm worried about it. I know Jose; the stuff is there. It's about the way he's going to take the game. We know he's there. His velocity is good, he's healthy, and we wait for him to click."
All of this concern came back up again following the rough outing Contreras had on Saturday night, when the right-hander gave up seven runs on seven hits over 3 1/3 innings against the Rangers. One bad pitch, launched by Hank Blalock for a go-ahead, three-run home run in the third, seemed to instantly change Contreras' direction.
As Guillen mentioned, the White Sox thought they had Contreras back during his last outing against Toronto, when he allowed three runs on eight hits over seven innings. The immediate solution is to bring Contreras back on Thursday at home against Detroit, with the potential for a Contreras turnaround better than any other short-term replacement option.
"My choice is short. I wish I had a choice," Guillen said. "It's about Jose going and doing it. I think he can do it. If Jose is hurt, then he's hurt. If Jose is sore, there are so many things. It's not about that.
"It's about maybe being more aggressive, maybe do anything you can to get better. Everyone is rooting for Jose, especially after what he went through last offseason. Sometimes you put your head down and shake your head. A.J. [Pierzynski] told me on the mound, 'I'm rooting for him, but sometimes it lets you down.' We all feel the same way."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.