The Pirates activated the star center fielder off the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. McCutchen will bat third as Pittsburgh tries to end a season-high six-game losing streak against Atlanta.
McCutchen went on the disabled list last week, retroactive to Aug. 4, with fractured rib cartilage. The Pirates went 5-9 in McCutchen's absence to fall slightly off the pace in the playoff race.
"It's pretty frustrating," McCutchen said. "It's like having your best friend out there during a race and you want to go out there and help him and you can't. It's kind of the same thing. Your teammates are out there grinding and we're getting the short end of the stick the last few games."
McCutchen was batting .307 with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs at the time of the injury. He insists he isn't experiencing any lingering pain from the injury, which came after a seemingly routine sacrifice fly against Arizona on Aug. 3. He will wear extra padding for the time being as a precaution but doesn't believe he will be limited in any way.
"I'm going to play the way I've been playing," he said.
To make room for McCutchen on the 25-man roster, the Pirates sent utility infielder Michael Martinez to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle hopes the return of the franchise cornerstone will stabilize a lineup that's been in flux for most of the month thanks to a string of injuries to regulars like McCutchen and second baseman Neil Walker.
"I think the presence is valuable," Hurdle said. "The player is valuable but the value the presence does bring is something we would miss whenever he's not in."
The injury came a day after McCutchen was drilled in the back by a 95 mph fastball Arizona reliever Randall Delgado, which happened to be one game after Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt broke his hand after getting hit by Pirates reliever Ernesto Frieri.
While there was no direct correlation between getting plunked and the ensuing rib issue, McCutchen said he was "a little upset" Delgado was not disciplined.
"There's a chance that someone could get hurt with the same injury that I got because there was nothing that was handled," McCutchen said. "It wouldn't surprise me if something like that would happen again."