John McNamara yesterday was given his fourth major league team, the California Angels, to manage.

Bob Lillis, the Astros' interim manager their last 51 games, was given a contract to continue in the Houston job for 1983.

McNamara, a former Angels coach fired in midseason as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, until recently had been considered a strong contender for the Baltimore job vacated by retiring Earl Weaver. He reportedly was favored by Orioles General Manager Hank Peters.

But the Orioles were not surprised when the Angels announced that McNamara and Buzzie Bavasi, California vice president, had reached agreement by telephone over the weekend, while Bavasi was in Chicago for the baseball meetings.

McNamara's hiring apparently leaves Joe Altobelli of the New York Yankees' coaching staff and Orioles coaches Cal Ripken Sr. and Ray Miller in the running for the Baltimore job. Owner Edward Bennett Williams has promised a decision by Nov. 15.

Williams, who also was in Chicago for the meetings, said yesterday from his home in Potomac that there was "no update" on the Orioles manager issue. Of McNamara, he said, "We considered him but he was not one of the ones on our final list" of prospects.

Williams refused to confirm or deny that Altobelli, Ripken and Miller remained the top candidates.

"You could say that," he said, "but I'm not going to tell you that. We haven't finished yet. We have a couple of weeks left and we're going to get to it. Until we make an announcement there's nothing else to say."

However, Peters said, "it's safe" to assume the list is down to those three.

Speculation by insiders has Altobelli the leading candidate but the picture has been muddied somewhat by the Oakland A's interest in Miller as a replacement for Billy Martin as manager.

Miller said yesterday he was "talking to both clubs." Peters said the A's are respecting ground rules established by the Orioles and would not offer Miller a job until Baltimore has made its managerial choice.

Miller, Orioles pitching coach since 1978 when George Bamberger left to manage the Milwaukee Brewers, said there is no timetable for a decision, "except you'd expect them (the Orioles and A's) to be set before the (Nov. 10) free-agent draft." He said Baltimore officials "are still saying a week to 10 days but they've been saying that for three weeks." Said Peters, "We should have a decision some time next week."

McNamara, 50, guided the Reds to a 245-186 record during 1979-81, best in the majors for that span. But last season, after disastrous trades, the club fell to 61-101. In midseason, McNamara was fired.

The Angels hired him to replace Gene Mauch, who led the team to the division title but lost the best-of-five league championship playoffs after leading, 2-0. Mauch resigned.

Lillis, 52, was a shortstop with the Dodgers, Cardinals and Astros and has been in the Houston organization for 20 years. He took over the club upon dismissal of Bill Virdon, now manager of the Montreal Expos, and under him the Astros went 28-23.