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Part of Joe Morgan's job as the Boston Red Sox' new manager is to convince his players they belong in the major leagues.

After 16 years of managing in the minors and all but abandoning hope of getting his own big-league shot, Morgan is confident he belongs in the job suddenly thrust upon him when John McNamara was fired Thursday.General Manager Lou Gorman said Morgan, Boston's third-base coach, was an interim manager and a search would begin immediately for a more permanent successor.

"Interim means nothing to me," Morgan said. "I'm the manager of the ballclub."

The new field boss may have to convince his players that they are the right men to bring the Red Sox back from a mediocre first half and live up to the team's preseason billing as a strong contender in the American League East.

"My job is to get some faith into this ballclub," Morgan said. "Faith is the point where a team or a guy gets when he knows that he can do the job."

Young talent, led by outfielders Mike Greenwell and Ellis Burks, and the offseason acquisition of reliever Lee Smith were major reasons for Boston's high hopes. But at the All-Star break, the Red Sox were 43-42 and tied for fourth place, nine games behind first-place Detroit.

Greenwell and Burks have played very well, but Smith has been a disappointment.

While McNamara was seen as partial to veterans, some Red Sox are hopeful Morgan will be more effective than his predecessor with younger players.

Greenwell, the major leagues' RBI leader in his second full season, said Morgan can "change the atmosphere around here a little bit. He can bring the most out of the young guys here."

As manager of the Pawtucket Red Sox of the International League from 1974 through 1982, Morgan managed current Boston players Wade Boggs, Marty Barrett, Bruce Hurst and Rich Gedman. Morgan has been more outgoing than McNamara but feels he can be tough.

Gorman said he would consider Morgan, Pawtucket Manager Ed Nottle and candidates outside the organization in his managerial search.

McNamara was the sixth major league manager fired this season, following Cal Ripken of Baltimore, Billy Martin of the New York Yankees, Dick Williams of Seattle, Larry Bowa of San Diego and Chuck Tanner of Atlanta.